Touring – reviewed at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
I have seen a variety of incarnations of The Sound of Music, from the ever popular film, to a selection of touring and regional productions and I also completed a hat trick at the London Palladium during Connie Fisher’s reign as Maria. My expectation for this latest production which is currently residing at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for the week, were, I’m ashamed to say, not incredibly high. However, I can honestly report that this production has blown me away and not only exceeded my expectations, but it was infinitely better than the production at the Palladium, in my humble opinion.
The scene was set beautifully with a simple backdrop of the mountains which reflected every scene nuance with a quick flick of the lighting. Every cast member demonstrated strong vocals and main characters and ensemble worked together as a team which surely complemented the seamless way that the piece came together.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria was a definite highlight, always a showcase for the performers playing Sister Sophia (Tammy Davies), Sister Berthe (Kate Scott) and Sister Margaretta (Zoe Ann Brown). As well as a promise of what is to come from the Mother Abbess (Jan Hartley) and that early excerpt left me on tenterhooks for Climb Every Mountain, I knew it was going to be ovation worthy. Of course, the stage version varies slightly to the film in that Maria (Lucy O’Byrne) and the Mother Abbess sing a duet of Raindrops on Roses, so we didn’t have to wait long for another helping of the talent that Hartley possesses. O’Byrne had already demonstrated what a fine Maria she was going to be from her opening number, and this duet was a splendid blend of two sensational voices.
Lucy O’Byrne as Maria and Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess
I thought that the set for the Captain’s house was magnificent, featuring a staircase, of course, in preparation for So Long, Farwell, and here we saw what an inspired choice Andrew Lancel is for the role of Captain Von Trapp. Having only had prior knowledge of his television performances, before, I admit to having been somewhat open mouthed when he first sang! He had good poise and stage presence for such an upstanding and serious character, however he was equally adept at adapting as Georg started to fall for the Governess, Maria. Subtle changes from both Lancel and O’Byrne, I felt, kept the audience gripped as they finally fell in love and sealed it. I’m certain I heard a collective sigh during Something Good! O’Byrne’s vocal ability is so beautifully natural that she is quite a beguiling Maria, but not without the right character traits of vulnerability, confusion and maternal warmth.
The Von Trapp children were all well cast, Liesel (Annie Horn) gave a stunning performance throughout and I felt that she had a smile that resembled the late Charmian Carr, which was actually strangely comforting. There was good chemistry between Liesel and Rolf (Kane Verrall), I am Sixteen Going on seventeen was innovatively choreographed and Verrall and Horn were in synch at all times. I must also mention Pippa Winslow who breathes new life into the character of Frau Schmidt, giving her a bounce in her step, a twinkle in her eye and she was rewarded with a fair share of laughs, too.
Lucy O’Byrne as Maria and Andrew Lancel as Captain Von Trapp
Climb Every Mountain was the pinnacle of the show, as it rightly should be, I was not at all disappointed and will go so far as to say that despite having seen Lesley Garrett in this role, Hartley holds the gauntlet for me. Her connection with the character, even without the outstanding voice that she can use so inexplicably is what drew me to her, what a spectacular performer.
From the folly of the relationship between Maria and the children, to the underlying seriousness of the Third Reich, to the love stories that are bubbling away – this production has everything you could wish for from The Sound of Music. It’s a show to be proud of and I was uplifted, from the overture through to my departure from the dress circle among a crowd of equally impressed theatre-goers.
Photo Credits: Kenwright.com