The International Sound of Music

In spite of what you may be hearing on the news or from your tween family members, the classics are not dead. The Sound of Music is a cherished musical production that is accessible to virtually every culture in the world. The London West End production of this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic spent six months in South Africa attesting to the incredible popularity of this story and some of the world’s premier performers. In contrast to the presumption that only rock and pop music stars tour overseas for half a year, this timeless story of family and positivity in the wake of events that would disrupt the entire world continues to find fans more than half a century after its creation.

The West End production made its way from London to major theaters in Cape Town, Johannesburg, the Western Cape, and the Northern Province in South Africa. What is unique about this specific production is that the sets, costuming, and choreography were done by the British team but all of the actors and performers were South African. This exemplifies the unifying nature of the arts. It also gives credence to the too often overlooked aspect that the talent behind the scenes is congruent to that seen onstage, proven by the copious awards and accolades this production received (Naledia Award Nominations for Best Musical Direction, Best Leading Actress, and Best Production of a Musical; Fleur Du Cap Award Nominations forBest Performance By An Actor In A Musical, Best Performance By An Actress In A Musical, Best Set Design, & Best Costume Design).

The producers of the South African production had seen the West End presentation and felt that audiences of their homeland would embrace it, and their expectations were exceeded. The geographic separation of the two locations led them to the idea of utilizing South African performers while enlisting the production team of the West End. With Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber as Executive Producer, The Sound of Music embarked on a six-month tour of dates that was a resounding success. Tour and production manager Doug Middlebrook kept things on point and on schedule. As a native of Cape Town who has worked internationally for years (Middlebrook has served as tour and production manager for a diverse set of music artists including Ariana Grande, Victoria Monet, Orfeh, and many others), this tour was something of a homecoming for him. He communicates, “I travel so much internationally that being back in South Africa is a rarity for me. My favorite part of touring is seeing fans from different parts of the globe at concerts and shows. Touring in South Africa is pretty wonderful because the people are so diverse across the country. To see so many people who seem different connecting with the same story in The Sound of Music was heartwarming.” He adds, “If you’ve gone through customs, you know the complexity involved with moving items from one country into another. Doing this with an entire array of costumes and massive set pieces was daunting but well worth the incredibly positive response from audiences in South Africa.”

Some things and some ideas have no boundaries. Talent and an entertaining message of hopefulness translate everywhere. The Sound of Music tour from London’s West End to the far reaches of South Africa remind us that the arts may be the most useful tool in diplomacy…and a great way to spend an evening or an afternoon.

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