Sheer unsophisticated enjoyment

March 19, 2015 by

We’ve enjoyed – as well as shedding tears – the film on Boxing Day over the past years.

Now, in its 50th anniversary year, a brand new production of the iconic musical theatre weepie Sound of Music arrives to tug at our heart strings as we follow the tempestuous convent-raised rebel Maria as she takes on the Von Trapp children – all seven of them, not to mention their father Captain Von Trapp, an autocratic Sea Captain used to having his own way but totally unable to cope as a father after he is widowed.

As Maria becomes part of the family their lives are jeopardised with Austria is taken over by the Third Reich at the beginning of World War II. Escape is necessary – but how?

Of course, it is not only the story that has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide ever since the show opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 1959, but the songs. All the well-known songs are here: Climb Every Mountain, Edelweiss, My Favourite Things, the list is too long to document fully.

As Maria, Danielle Hope , who won BBC TV’s Over the Rainbow and starred as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in London’s West End, brings a youthful appeal to the role, showing an evident empathy with the part.

As Captain von Trapp, Steve Houghton has the difficult task of taking on the part that so many of the audience identify with the dishy Christopher Plummer, who played the role alongside Julie Andrews as Maria in the hit 1965 film. Houghton has the looks but fails to project sufficient authority in Act I; as love brings him to the realisation of his lack of fathering skills he projects as New Man rather than dashing Sea Dog.
However, his gulp-making rendering of Edelweiss gets my vote.
As for the Von Trapp children – what’s not to like?

Top marks to the engaging Jan Hartley as the Mother Abbess. As well as considerable operatic experience, Hartley has a stash of starring West End roles under her belt – and it shows. Her stage presence is faultless and, coupled with an amazing vocal range, makes her performance a delight.

Sets are faithful to the original in many ways, and all credit to designer Gary McCann for this – not easy with a touring production and limited stage space. A word in the ear, however, to lighting designer Nick Richings. Not your fault, Nick – but it might be an idea to lower the lights a tad or two earlier before the performance begins. On the night I attended, conversations were being finished and unforgivable rustling of paper bags going on during the opening bars of the music.

Despite its enduring popularity, the accusation of being too sentimental has often been levelled at Sound of Music in the past, and the comment is not without justification. Cancelling it out, however, is the sheer unsophisticated enjoyment engendered by this piece of musical theatre.

Runs until Saturday, March 28th.


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