The Sound of Music – Rehearsal Diary, Week 1

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a fly on the wall in the rehearsal room for a major musical in Australia? Or better still, inside the mind of an actor in a rehearsal room for a major musical in Australia? Performer David James is currently rehearsing the role of Max Detweiler for the upcoming Australian production of The Sound Of Music and he has been keeping a diary of the process just for our AussieTheatre readers!

This is the first instalment of his regular column – Uncle Max’s Diary – keeping us updated on the creative process and progress from The Sound of Music’s rehearsal room as well as some beautiful insights and thoughts on the cast, the show and singing with Marina Prior!

Uncle Max’s Diary

November 9, 2015. 10am. Day 1

ABC Studios, Sydney

First day strudel at The Sound of Music rehearsals.
First day strüdel at The Sound of Music rehearsals.

The nervous excitement of meeting everyone and actually starting. The anticipation has been immense – very much like the first day at school. Tables of apple strüdel and cream, the beginnings of new friendships, a football team’s worth of beaming, excited kids (and that’s just the adult actors), fine speeches from all the top brass. Then around the huge rehearsal room we go for individual introductions. Every parent in the cast (and many who aren’t) were in tears as a wonderful Von Trapp children got up one after another, their dream coming true. I was gone after the first six (and there are eighteen of them!)

A piece of Strüdel and a cup of coffee to recover.

*note to self – Nescafé Blend 43 isn’t coffee !!

November 10, 2015 11am. Day 2

The incomparable Marina Prior, who plays the Baroness, and I meet with Peter Casey our Musical Supervisor to sing through our first number ‘How can Love Survive?’. Luke Hunter (our Musical Director) plays the piano. A great start. PC’s calm and purposeful musical direction already a godsend. I spend most of the session getting over a ‘God, I can’t believe I’m singing with Marina Prior’ moment. A wardrobe fitting in Leichhardt (two H’s, not one) rounds out the day.

November 11, 2015. 11am. Day 3

We pause at the 11th hour for Remembrance Day, which serves as poignant reminder of how lucky we are to be telling this iconic story and breathing life into it again. Max’s first entrance and scene today. It’s good to be up on the floor. Marina and I have a great onstage chemistry and she already feels like an old friend (not too old of course, Darling). It feeds into our first steps as Max and Elsa. It feels like a fun rehearsal room already – relaxed, inventive, collaborative, supportive; all the things you hope for as an actor. Gavin Mitford (our director) is a top bloke. I already knew this from the audition process. He’s also such a calm, guiding hand as a director – playful, centred, unhurried. It’s going to be terrific working with him. By the end of the session, we are all calling Marina’s character Baroness Schraeder ‘The Shredder’.
That’s a keeper !!

November 12, 2015. 1.30pm. Day 4

Cam Daddo and I go for Phô (Vietnamese soup) at lunch and reconnect after 30 years. We first met as students at Melbourne Grammar School in the 1980s and here we are all these years later as Max and Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. I love this business! It’s the first time we’ve ever worked together but it doesn’t feel like it. He is such a lovely bloke – open,funny, honest, warm hearted. He’s going to be splendid as Captain von Trapp and there’s going to be a lot of golf played on tour.

November 14, 2015. 10am. Day 6

Discussion with the cast at ABC studios, Ultimo

Another session on ‘How Can Love Survive?’. Some terrific choreography emerging and ideas flow freely. Philip Dodd, who plays Franz the butler, is already making me laugh at will.

*note to self: Danger, it’s a long tour!

A fine actor and a lovely man, it’s great to have him on board.

I watch the different groups of kids do their stuff. Fascinating to note how each group has its own distinct energy and characteristics. It will keep us on our toes during the run, which is great. They’re all adorable… and ridiculously talented.
We stumble through Act 1 to end the first week. I am already so often moved by this piece. In many respects, The Sound of Music is a victim of its own success and longevity. You think you know it and then it’s pathos or it’s simple honesty smack you right between the eyes. When Cam (The Captain) and his children sing “my heart will be blessed with the sound of music” to each other, I thought my throat would burst. Beautiful!!

*note to self: can’t wait to talk to my own daughters tomorrow.

We finish with a cleansing ale at the pub; sadly no Austrian Pilsener on tap.

Stay tuned for the second instalment of Uncle Max’s Diary on!

A NIDA graduate, David James’ career as an actor spans more than two decades. On stage, he has worked for many of Australia’s leading theatre companies including Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare, Queensland Theatre Company, Black Swan, Griffin and Pork Chop Productions. David’s more recent theatre credits include The Speechmaker (MTC), David Williamson’s When Dad Married Fury (HIT Productions), Australia Day (MTC/STC), All About My Mother (MTC) and Ying Tong (STC/MTC/QTC). He also toured Australia and NZ in the Helpmann Award winning production of the musical Avenue Q.

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