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Theatre Review: The Sound of Music

22 September 16 words: Beverley Makin
The hills are alive to the sound of folk mouthing the words to this

The Sound of Music - production photo

50 years after the film release and just a year after the last UK tour, The Sound of Music is back at the Theatre Royal.  Even if you aren’t a stage or film musical fan you will probably be familiar with the odd tune, image of nippers singing in lederhosen and an apron clad von Trapp family.

Before Julie Andrews started spinning around on mountain tops, the real von Trapp family inspired several German-language films and the original Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical production in 1959 which has regularly been revived around the world.  If you are a fan of the 1965 film Bill Kenwright's compact stage production isn’t an exact duplicate but contains all the classic songs we love including ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and ‘Favourite Things’ in a handy technicolour serving.

Set in the mountains of pre WW2 Austria, ahead of the Nazi 'Anschluss' (their forced unification of Germany and Austria), the Sound of Music is based on the real life of the von Trapp family and outspoken novice nun Maria Kutschera.  The musical sees Maria sent from the Abbey where she is training to the von Trapp household for a stint at governess to well-to-do widower Captain Georg von Trapp's seven mischievous children.  Maria breathes life back to the regimented naval household, with her perfect singing diction, while quietly falling for the Captain. Widower Georg is in the process of pursuing a 'good marriage' to an Austrian socialite when Maria arrives on the scene, her talent in getting his children to sing beautifully reminding him of his late musical English wife.

An increasingly happy family unit they may be but the story is set at a time when dark clouds were looming over Europe. Across the mountains in Germany the Nazis have come to power and are hell bent on merging Germany with German speaking Austria, whether they like it or not. Proud Austrian Captain von Trapp refuses to fly the Nazi flag at his estate and is hesitant when a navy command post in the new Nazi Kreigsmarine is thrust upon him. Dangerous views, when dissent could put him and his family at risk, what to do?

In this colourful stage version the bum numbing three hour film is condensed into a song packed short and sweet set. The story get's chopped around a bit but it's got all the classic tunes and adorable family action in there. The actual story unfolded over more than a decade, rather than over months, and the family’s flight from the Nazis rather less Hollywood.

The Voice UK runner up Lucy O’Byrne is a perfect Maria. Energetic and engaging she lights up the stage and brings every wonderfully delivered song to life, at times making you wish you were at the sing-a-long movie version, with most of the audience quietly mouthing the words.

Perhaps not best known for his singing Andrew Lancel (Frank Forster off Corrie and a heap of other TV roles) is a surprising Captain von Trapp, managing to be austere and warm at the same time.  Lucy van Gasse and Howard Samuels support the cast as the sophisticated Elsa Schraeder and Mel Brooks-esque Max Detweiler but are outshone by the powerfully voiced Mother Abbess played by Jan Hartley.  Along with her cheeky nuns she was a highlight.  

Let us not forget the troupe of von Trapps.  A rotating cast of 18 young talents make up the seven von Trapp children and what a wonderful group they are. Led by Annie Holland as the oldest child Liesl, each brought a unique personality to the stage to bring the Alpine story alive with faultless delivery, excellent considering the youngest member was just 6 or 7.

The show received a standing ovation, of which it was well worthy. Great fun.

The Sound of Music plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Tuesday 20 to Saturday 24 September 2016.

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