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Theatre Review: The Sound of Music at Theatre Royal

31 October 19 words: Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas went to Theatre Royal Nottingham to see Nottingham Operatic Society's 

For those of us growing up in the early sixties, The Sound of Music became one of those landmark movies that defined our generation. Much like Star Wars for younger people or the Marvel movies for today’s kids. It achieved peak saturation and entered the cultural subconscious, becoming a parody, a funeral playlist and making Salzburg a massive tourist attraction.  

So, a big thank you to the Nottingham Operatic Society for reviving this much-loved classic. On opening night, the Theatre Royal was full to capacity, with people of all ages but predominantly the over-fifties, who sat teary-eyed, singing along with the famous songs. 

Surely everyone knows the plot? Wacky novice sent from nunnery into the world to calm down a bit. Stationed as governess in the household of a forbidding and recently widowed Captain of the Austrian Navy (do they have one?). Steals the hearts of his seven adorable and mildly naughty children. Then, just as true love arrives for the adults, so too does the Anschluss and the shadow of the swastika.  

In some ways, The Sound of Music is a narrative in reverse. It begins happily and innocently. Maria, the ex-nun, teaching her charges to sing jolly songs while they march up and down the Alps. It is not till the third act that storm clouds gather, and the plot gets very, very dark.  

The Nottingham Operatic Society gives a solid, commendable performance. Abby Wells excels as Maria and carries the production from curtain-up to curtain call. The sets are minimal, the dance routines modest. Unfurling a huge Nazi flag from the top box was a clever, if chilling, touch. 

But the stars in The Sound of Music are the songs, transcending the performers and connecting the audience to those long-ago days when Julie Andrews, briefly, ruled the world. The Hills Are Alive, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and, well, all of the numbers, are evergreens you never forget. The harmonies by Richard Rodgers are instantly hardwired into your brain. The lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein have the simplicity of a nursery rhyme but at the same time, are actually rather clever. Poetry, in fact:

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things

Indeed, these songs are like old friends. So, if you are already a fan, come along for a reunion with those old friends. And if you are not, come along anyway, and make some new ones. 

The Sound of Music plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal from Tuesday 29 October to Saturday 3 November.

Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall website