Director Yuthtana Lopanpibul brings a Thai version of "The Sound of Music" to the Bangkok stage.
After a year bereft of lavish musicals, the much-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The Sound of Music” (“Monrak Phleng Sawan”), is coming to the stage in just a few weeks and, for the first time in its history, the entire production will be in Thai.
Performing at Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre from April 2 to 26, the production is the brainchild of newcomer Poruethai Narongdej who, along with being the founder and big boss of Guts Entertainment, is a partner with her brother, singer Phunkorn “Dunk”, in the music label Revol Music Creation as well as the producer of several TV dramas for Channel 3.
“My mother used to let me watch the movie to my heart’s content. I was just five at the time and I didn’t understand a word of English! But it was my favourite story. I must have watched it more than 100 times,” says Poruethai.
Directed by TV drama guru Yuthtana Lopanpaibul, the musical is based on the original version of the musical in 1959, which is different from the movie version. Every process has to be approved by Rodgers and Hammerstein in New York including the translation and the songs, both in content and timing.
While the musical has been staged here on several occasions, including a version put on by Wattana Wittayalai School 14 years ago and the touring version, with Marie Osmond as Maria Rainer, thrilling audiences back in 1997, most know the story from the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
Set during World War II, the musical is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp. A nun whose high spirits are causing trouble at her convent, Maria is sent to the home of Captain Von Trapp to serve as governess to his seven troublesome children. Maria teaches them to sing and Captain Von Trapp to love, but when the Nazis invade Austria, the whole family is forced to flee to safety.
The Thai version will operate with a double cast for all the roles with the exception of that of Captain Von Trapp, who will be played throughout the run by TV actor Chatayodom “Chai” Hiranyathiti. Singing talents Tanantorn “Fang FFK” Neerasing of the teen pop trio Fay Fang Kaew and Natpatsorn Simasathien, a former KPN Junior contestant, will takes turns on stage as Maria.
Singer and stage actress Pijika “Luk Wah” Jittaputta stars as Elza and singer Thanaporn “Parn” Waekprayoon plays the Mother Abbess.
Yutthana recalls watching “The Sound of Music” as a child and loving it.
While his primary career is in television, Yuthtana is a keen theatregoer and has even appeared on stage in Takonkiet Viravan’s musical “Bangkok 2485” in 2004.
“I was looking for the project I really wanted to do when Poruethai approached me about a year ago,” he says.
“I love this story. I have the film on VHS video and DVD and have caught the musical every time it’s been restaged. I’m very happy to be directing it,” Yuthtana says, adding that despite its age, he doesn’t think the musical is outdated even for a young audience.
“The songs are known all over the world. They are used in music class. I used them with my students,” says music director Piti Kayoonpan.
Yuthtana agrees, saying that TV drama remakes always do well, even when people know the story inside out. An example is the recent remake of TV drama “Vanida”, which is set around the same era as the “The Sound of Music”.
“However as “The Sound of Music the Musical” is different from the movie version, I fully expect some fans to be initially disappointed when the scenes are not what they are expecting,” Yuthtana says.
Piti adds that for this reason, it was vital that the translation be as close to the original version as possible.
“We had to find a translator who knew the music too so that he or she would be able understand the melody and choose the right words for both lyrics and dialogue, thus helping the audience to follow the story,” he says.
Piti and Yuthtana found that person in Narin Prasoppakdee, himself a major fan of musicals. After reading just a few pages of his translation, they knew they had their man.
Yuthtana explains that he became friendly with Narin thanks to their shared love for musical. A graduate of Chulalongkorn University and fluent in both English and French, Narin is the international coordinator for a major energy firm but enjoys spending his spare time translating songs.
“His translation is brilliant. He’s kept the original meaning while giving us beautiful Thai language that allows us to really appreciate the songs,” Yuthtana enthuses.
While the director believes that travelling productions are great for those who are fluent in English, he says local audiences really need musicals to be in their native tongue if they are to enjoy them.
“Japan and Korea import many Broadway and West End musicals, translate them and have them performed by local actors whose singing and acting talents are on a par with world standards,” he says.
“Thailand doesn’t as yet have the musical talent to do this continuously,” he adds. “But by bringing14 kids to the stage, we are hoping it will inspire other youngsters to take acting and singing more seriously so we can build up a stock of talented and well-qualified artists.”
“The Sound of Music the Musical” will run from April 2 to April 26 at Muang Thai Ratchadalai Theatre.
Tickets are Bt1,000 to Bt4,500. For details, see www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.