Vivienne Kennedy reviews The Sound of Music, playing at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 3rd September
August, theatre’s traditional dark period, always feels longer than any other month but taking my seat in the Bristol Hippodrome stalls last night felt like coming home and what a show to start the autumn/winter season with!
Loosely based on a true story, The Sound of Music is surely familiar to us all. I remember watching the film as a child with my parents and grandparents and later with my own children (I wonder if it’s still my 25-year-old’s favourite film; she really loved it when she was two). If you don’t know the words to Do-Re-Mi then you might as well be dead to me and it took every ounce of self-control I have not to belt that and other songs out loud as I watched.
It therefore surprises even me that I have never seen a professional stage production of this fabulous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical before (although I did see an excellent amateur version by Weston Operatic Society a few years back*) but boy was it worth waiting for and I doubt it will be the last time I watch it.
This new production, directed by Martin Connor, has everything a musical theatre fan could ask for – a proper, strong story; beautiful costumes and scenery; fabulous choreography (Bill Deamer); likeable characters; and those songs**…those wonderful songs.
Lucy O’Byrne and Andrew Lancel are excellent as Maria and Captain Von Trapp. I particularly enjoyed watching them dance a Ländler together, neither realising they are falling in love until it’s pointed out to Maria by the always-truthful Brigitta – a move that sends the scared novice nun scuttling back to the nunnery convent as fast as her little legs will carry her.
The Captain’s seven children are very well cast, totally believable as the harmonious siblings. Annie Holland, as Liesl, is particularly impressive; she has a beautiful voice and delivers a perfect portrayal of the 16-going-on-17-year-old girl who finds herself on the cusp of womanhood, falling in love for the first time and thoroughly bewildered by it all, one moment super-confident – “…and I don’t need a governess” – the next completely unsure of herself and those around her.
I must also mention Rebecca Caine as Mother Abbess – what a set of pipes that lady has, demonstrated best when singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain at the end of Act I.
I loved every moment of The Sound of Music but found myself feeling quite emotional at times. I like a show that can do that but, to be fair, Edelweiss should probably take much of the blame, for some reason that song has always made me cry.
I would not hesitate to recommend it if you want a night out at the theatre this week and if you’ve already got tickets I am as jealous as a very jealous thing. Judging from the rapturous applause that filled the theatre, not to mention the very enthusiastic standing ovation, I think most people there last night would agree with me.
For further information and to book online visit www.atgtickets.com
*I’ve just looked at Weston Operatic Society’s website and it seems that “a few years back” was actually 1992 – eek.
**If, like me, you’ve not seen the stage show before, you should know that the songs aren’t always sung in the same order as in the film plus one or two from the film aren’t sung in the stage production and vice versa.
Photograph: The Sound of Music UK Tour – Lucy O’Byrne as Maria – credit Mark Yeoman