Competition: Win tickets to see The Sound of Music at the Felixstowe Spa

The Nazis don’t worry Sound of Music director Michael Crane; getting bums on seats and having to tell youngsters they haven’t got a part on the other hand... Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE finds out more about his least favourite things.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final collaboration isn’t just about whiskers on kittens, warm woollen mittens and outfits made out of curtains.

If, rather bizarrely, you’ve never seen it - perhaps you’re out every Christmas - best skip the next few paragraphs.

Yes, at its heart is a love story.

A postulant too high-spirited for the religious life wins the heart of a widowed naval captain when she’s sent to serve as governess for his seven children in Austria thanks to her rapport with the youngsters, generosity of spirit and perchant for close harmony singing.

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But lurking in the background is the ever approaching shadow of the Second World War.

“It’s quite poignant and well written; it’s not airy fairy like I think Rodgers and Hammerstein normally write,” says Felixstowe Musical Theatre’s Michael, who’s been directing shows for more than two decades and last took the helm of this one for the Angel Players many years ago.

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One of his favourites - I forget to ask his views on cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels - he thinks it’s one of the duo’s better shows.

“It’s very well known and a lovely family show. That was the reason for doing it; we snapped it up because it’s so popular and it’s a nice time to do it, around Christmas.”

Given the current financial climate everybody’s suffering and amateur theatre groups are no exception, staging a show, even a guaranteed crowd-pleaser like this, these days brings added pressure and responsibility.

It’s important the theatre - and the group’s bank account afterwards - aren’t empty.

“That does weigh on your shoulders a bit, when you think about what you’re taking on; especially when you think of the money you’re spending. You’re looking at probably somewhere in excess of �18,000-�20,000 by the time you’ve finished,” sighs Michael.

“We don’t mind if we break even, especially in today’s climate; if we’ve done that we’ve done quite well. But you’re looking for a good audience [to do that].”

Bums on seats isn’t the only fallout from going for popular shows.

“From a personal point of view I get frustrated because I know there are shows I’d like to do artistically and I can’t because I know we’d open in the Spa with about 100 people in there.

“I’d like to do more [Stephen] Sondheim stuff which doesn’t sell really,” he says, “and Jeckyll and Hyde, that sort of stuff. Really good stories and the music is fantastic; but you just can’t afford to do them.

“I can guarantee them [Sound of Music audiences] they will have a really good night out; I can promise them that.”

The cast of 40 or so started rehearsing in September and they have gone well, “we’re getting there now or we should be because we’re going on soon,” laughs Michael.

All your favourite songs and scenes are there; complemented by a professional set, orchestra and costumes; the main outfits from Dereham Costumes, some from the group’s costume store and bits and pieces from here and there. If you think the family’s escape over the mountains is hard - if you haven’t seen the show or movie forget I mentioned that - try seeing 30 plus kids for seven parts.

Finding youngsters to fill the seven main children roles wasn’t hard; breaking the news who was in was.

“When you’re auditioning, to actually say ‘no, we don’t want you’; it was very difficult. That was the hard part of the auditions; they were brilliant and we could have probably cast it three times over with the children.

“Even some of the adults, especially if they know they’re within a nail you know of getting it, that [the rejection] is still hard for them.

“With children it’s even worse because you get lots of tears, even if you explain to them before they audition that there are only seven parts. You see 30 children out there, all looking at you. That is hard because you know you’re an enemy to 23 but the other seven think you’re great,” he laughs.

Felixstowe Musical Theatre bring The Sound of Music to Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion from December 7-10.

We have a pair of tickets to Friday’s performance to give away; just e-mail the name of the actress who played Maria in the film to by 5pm Wednesday.

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