Never mind solving a problem like Maria… how do you fit a mountain inside Aberdeen’s Tivoli Theatre?
With ingenuity and a talented set design and light time, according to Abigail Westwood Patterson, who is directing Giz Giz Youth Theatre’s version of The Sound Of Music at the venue next week.
“While the Tivoli is a beautiful theatre, it’s very hard to put a mountain on the stage. We’re not the London Palladium, with a revolving mountain, as much as I wish we had the budget,” she said.
“But in a way it’s been quite nice because it forces you to be quite creative with what you do.
“We are very fortunate to work with a great theatre design company and fantastic lighting and sound technicians, so we have managed to build something that will look really effective.”
Which means the talented young cast will indeed be able to climb every mountain as they tackle one of the most iconic musicals of all time.
“It is one of those perennial favourites that I think we have all grown up watching,” Abigail said.
“People just love it and it brings back so many happy memories. For a lot of people I think it was the first musical they were aware of – that and Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews seems to be your first entry into musicals.”
Abigail was delighted the young company, aged eight to 18, was able to secure the rights for the show, which she said hasn’t been taken on by an amateur company in Aberdeen for many years – if ever.
And she believes the story of the singing Austrian Von Trapp family and their flight from the Nazis is an ideal show for the company to tackle, packed with unforgettable songs from Do-Re-Mi to Climb Ev’ry Mountain, My Favourite Things to Edelweiss.
“It’s a strong ensemble show and we are very fortunate to have a strong ensemble company,” said Abigail.
“We don’t have principals per se, we just have a company who all work together.
“Yes we have a front line, but you have lovely opportunities for smaller scenes where some of our cast can really flourish.”
While for many of us The Sound Of Music is about as familiar a show as you can get, Abigail said some of the young cast have never actually seen it.
“It’s been really nice for them to get a musical to do they are perhaps not that aware of.
“It’s been lovely for them to get the context of who these people were, the context of what it was set against.
“It’s a crowd-pleaser. It has songs that everybody knows and is just a great show for a youth company to do.”
Abigail said she has used the fact some of the youngsters haven’t watched the film to their advantage in the run-up to staging the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
“I asked them not to watch it. I would rather there was no mimicry of how Julie Andrews did it, or Christopher Plummer did it and they have all brought something of their own to it.”
Abigail said the youngsters have more than risen to the challenge of the show and had “blown her away”.
“I thought it might have been a difficult one for them but they have just taken to it and it has been brilliant to see. They are just wonderful to watch.
“They are really invested in it and want to know more and want to know why they are doing certain things. The enthusiasm is beautiful to see.”
Another huge reason for doing The Sound Of Music was its enduring appeal, said Abigail.
“It is a story about love and overcoming everything. That is something which is always going to be great in a musical,” she said.
“But it’s also about family and while we don’t have Nazis tearing down our doors, it’s something everyone can relate to. You might be in a difficult situation, but there is so much love there that keeps you together.
“And there are so many funny moments in it, which I think people kind of forget. We get caught up in it being about nuns and Nazis, but there is so much humour and warmth to it.
“It’s one of those shows that you come away from thinking, that’s just lovely.”
Abigail said it was also good to do a more traditional musical as opposed to some of the “jukebox” shows.
She believes that Giz Giz’s take on The Sound Of Music has some truly standout moments.
“I think the concert scene will be really good. As we all know it was the last time the Von Trapps performed as a family and that’s when they realise they have to leave the home they love and leave all their friends.
“The way we are doing it in the theatre, we are using the audience as the audience at the concert, so we are turning the Tivoli into the Kaltzberg Festival.
“It gives you shivers because it is beautifully done with the family. We have impressed on (the cast) that this isn’t just you’re singing a song and you’re leaving, this is them having to leave everything they have ever known for a new life, not knowing what’s going to happen to them.
“That scene gets me every time.”
Abigail said Giz Giz, established more than 30 years ago by Aberdeen theatre legend Annie Inglis, is about building the confidence of its young team and seeing them flourish over the years.
“For example, Aiden Combe, who is playing Rolf, has come on leaps and bounds. He himself has said a few years ago he couldn’t imagine himself playing a part like that, but now he is in one of the pivotal parts of the show.”
And Abigail hopes the audience will get as much out of The Sound Of Music as the company members have when they watch the show at the Tivoli.
She said: “The Tivoli is actually a very special theatre. Julie Andrews performed there with her family when she was eight, so it has a nice link to the show.
“I think the audience will just have a fantastic night at the theatre. Sometimes life can be a bit depressing, especially when you turn on the news these days.
“It’s nice just for two hours to sit and watch something that transports you to a completely different place.
“We’re bringing a little slice of Austria to Aberdeen and we hope people will come away with a lovely warm feeling, singing their favourite things.”
Giz Giz Youth Theatre will present The Sound Of Music at the Tivoli Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday next week