Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II didn’t shirk from social issues within their
musical theatre productions: racism (
The nuns should be dubbed The Sisters of Perpetual Rapture for their gorgeous harmonies, lead by Jan Hartley’s superb Mother Abbess.
It seems that today’s production equation of talent show contestant plus former TV Soap star is a winning formula, at least when it comes to pulling in the crowds. Lucy O’Byrne’s portrayal of Maria settled into itself comfortably enough without quite providing any centre-stage magic. Her vocal dexterity more than made up for this, though her over-annunciation within the songs was at times irritating. This may have been a directional thing as it was also the case for Kane Verrall’s Rolf Gruber. O’Byrne’s chemistry with Captain von Trapp (played with flatness in the singing department by a suitably gruff Gray O’Brien) was almost believable; the obvious age difference between O’Byrne and O’Brien made it awkward. In comparison, the sweet bond between Verrall’s eager Rolf and Annie Horn’s pure innocent Liesl was far more credible.
The nuns should be dubbed The Sisters of Perpetual Rapture for their gorgeous harmonies, lead by Jan Hartley’s superb Mother Abbess. There are very good reasons why the Playhouse doesn’t allow glasses into the auditorium: Hartley’s powerful soprano vocals soared through the theatre and did glass-shattering, holy justice to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”.
The von Trapp children’s polished performance – with their sweet, very moving singing and their whip-smart marching – was enchanting. No theatre school brats here; just accomplished mini-actors. Pippa Winslow’s Frau Schmidt was played with good grace, Isla Carter’s loyal maid, Elsa Schraeder and Jon de Ville’s pusillanimous butler Franz were solid support. Duncan Smith’s performance as social-climber Max Detweiler, with his lascivious greed at realising the value of the children’s talent, a la Simon Cowell, produced a far more chilling threat than the Nazis.
Gary McCann’s versatile design, awash with divine gothic and art deco glamour, combined with Nick Richings’s etherial lighting create a richly atmospheric set. While director Martin Connor brings nothing new to this production of the Sound of Music, what could be done? Set it in contemporary Ukraine? With something so well-loved in the psyche of the musical-going public, the grounding familiarity of this elegantly generous production brings some considerable relief in this fast-changing world.