‘The Sound of Music’ in Manila: Family-friendly fun with political undertones

Amanda T. Lago

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‘The Sound of Music’ in Manila: Family-friendly fun with political undertones

INTERNATIONAL TOUR. The global touring production of 'The Sound of Music' opens in Manila.

Amanda Lago/Rappler

The international touring production tells a story of love, family, and standing up to tyrants

MANILA, Philippines – Who doesn’t know The Sound of Music?

Thanks to the 1965 Oscar-winning film starring the iconic Julie Andrews, the musical and its songs have become an indelible part of mainstream consciousness. 

Even (or especially) in the Philippines, audiences will readily sing along to the playful “Do-Re-Mi,” or “My Favorite Things,” or the high note-heavy “The Sound of Music.”

As well-known as the musical is, people might think they know exactly what to expect when they watch the stage play (which is actually what the film was based on, not the other way around.) It’s the story of a singing family with seven kids set to cheerful music – what else could it be?

But the international touring production, which opened in Manila on March 7 and stars Jill Christine Wiley in the lead role of Maria, offers up something new, even for those who grew up with the musical.

Lauren Kidwell, who plays Mother Abbess in the production, said as much in an interview with media on March 10, ahead of the show’s gala night.

“I think what’s really special about this production particularly is how grounded it feels. There’s a political undertone that I think people forget about  The Sound of Music, or maybe that’s not at the forefront,” she said.

“There’s something really special about the way in which the gravity of what these characters are going through without sacrificing any of the fun and the kids and the family and love and music – all of that is incorporated into a wonderful package in this show,” she added.

Lauren Kidwell plays Mother Abbess in the global touring production of ‘The Sound of Music.’ Courtesy of GMG Productions

Indeed, as entertaining as it is, people tend to forget that beyond the family-friendly fun, The Sound of Music is very much a story about what people lose – and gain – when they stand up to a tyrant. 

It is, after all, the story of a family who flees their homeland when the patriarch, decorated naval captain Georg Von Trapp, refuses to take up a posting with the Nazi-led German Navy. While some parts of the story were fictionalized, it is based on the true journey of the real-life Von Trapp family, who settled in the United States after fleeing Austria.

Little grace notes are added to the Manila show to emphasize the political weight of Captain Von Trapp’s decisions. The Nazi salute is much more pronounced in this storytelling, and so is the fearsome presence of the Nazi officials who storm the captain’s home to call him to the Navy. There are multiple mentions of the Anschluss – the annexation of Austria into the German Reich in 1938. 

The Nazi leanings of young messenger Rolf, portrayed in the Manila production by Filipino actor Markki Stroem, is even more highlighted as he and the captain’s eldest daughter Liesl touch on politics even as they launch into the wholesome “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” number.

There’s an entire number that explains the breakup between the captain and his one-time fiancee Baroness Elsa Schrader – played by the Philippines’ own Karylle Tatlonghari in a slinky standout performance. And spoiler alert, it comes down to political differences. 

The song, “No Way to Stop It” is in the original Broadway musical, but not in the movie, and it portrays the baroness’ political indifference – something that doesn’t sit right with the captain. 

Karylle Tatlonghari as Baroness Elsa Schrader. Courtesy of GMG Productions

And of course, there’s a spotlight on the scene where the Captain gets emotional as he performs “Edelweiss,” an Austrian patriotic song, as Nazi flags wave behind him and Nazi guards prepare to whisk him away to his posting.

For Trevor Martin, who plays Captain Von Trapp, the graver side of the Sound of Music story unfortunately still resonates today.

“It’s truly a story about refugees that are forced to leave their country under a tyrannical regime and don’t know where they’re gonna go, don’t know how it’s gonna end,” he said in an interview with media. 

Trevor Martin, who plays Captain Von Trapp, performs at a press event. Courtesy of GMG Productions

He noted that while the story ends well for the Von Trapps, many families – those in the United States, in Ukraine, and in other parts of the world – don’t get the same happy ending. He said that he keeps those people in mind when he performs. 

“The show does have a lot of hope in it because of how it ends for them, but for me, the way that it ends when we’re going on this final journey to leave, I always have in my mind all these other stories, these names that we don’t know, these families that we will never hear about, ever, that did not have that type of an ending,” he said.

Ultimately, he hopes the show paints a picture of hope.

“If we’re able to provide any kind of solace or hope or joy in that type of way, but more importantly provide an example of what it’s like to stand up for something you truly believe in, to be able to have that opportunity to portray that every single night is a joy and an honor to be able to do that,” he said.

The Sound of Music runs until March 26 at the Samsung Performing Arts Theater in Makati. Tickets are available via Ticketworld. –

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Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.