There can be few people who are unaware of The Sound Of Music. Even if they don’t know the story or any of the songs (as unlikely as this may seem!), most have at least heard of it! It’s the ‘true’ story of a postulant assigned as governess to a widowed naval Captain’s seven children, as the family become the highly acclaimed von Trapp Family Singers against a backdrop of love, war and peaceful efforts.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s stage musical (with a 1959 Broadway debut, followed by its West End premiere in 1961) has significant differences to the 1965 film, so you may find this isn’t entirely the show you expect. The order of some songs is changed, with others either removed completely or new ones added, while both stage and screen versions are only loosely based on the real-life events surrounding Maria, Georg von Trapp and his children, rather than an exact historical account.
After over 60 years of regular cinematic / TV screenings and more recent theatrical reboots, it’s particularly challenging to keep stage productions fresh for new audiences whilst still being faithful to the original source and satisfying the most ardent fans. It’s a fine balance to accomplish, but it’s one that Spot On Productions have successfully achieved.
Emma Harris is born to play Maria. Her captivating characterisation, enthusiasm, focus and crystal clear top notes seem to be channelling Julie Andrews even as she makes the role her own, while her rapport with the children is especially endearing and her singing superb. Wayne Ings, in a more serious role as Georg than he usually plays, captures a range of emotions from furious determination (as Georg resolves to withstand Hitler’s assault on his beloved Austria), sorrow as a widower, charming suitor to Baroness Schraeder and host to his guests, an initially firm yet ultimately loving father, and softening of Georg’s steely exterior as he falls in love.
Rhianna Killick (delightful as Liesl von Trapp) and Nico Bray (Rolf) portray a sweet young couple, especially during ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’, both showing how well suited they are to musicals. We were treated tonight to the Blue Team of children (alternating performances with the Red Team). These are a group of talented, disciplined, energetic and engaging youngsters who have gelled together to form a very believable and enchanting group of siblings. Along with Killick and Bray, their futures look as bright as their performances this evening!
Connor Handstock is excellent as Max Detweiler, charismatic and flamboyant musical impresario, with first rate comic timing, rich vocal tones and brilliant affinity with the children. Lizzie Bewley creates an elegantly poised, stylishly self-assured and at times haughty Elsa Schraeder. Together they perform with skill two of the most deceptively difficult musical numbers in the show (exclusive to the stage production) in ‘How Can Love Survive’ and ‘No Way To Stop It’, joined in the latter by Ings.
Hayley Joy radiates compassion as Mother Abbess, whether reminiscing with Maria about ‘My Favourite Things’ or providing maternal advice, with an impressive crystal clear top range of notes. Holly Ind (Sister Margaretta), Chloe Lewis (Sister Sophia) and Emily Capper (Sister Berthe) all portray very distinctive characters through their gestures and facial expressions, especially in the delightfully sung ‘Maria’.
The nuns’ a cappella singing is no mean feat, creating a suitably reverent and ethereal atmosphere, although the mics weren’t always entirely balanced (it’s also worth remembering that mics can amplify vocal weaknesses as well as increase volume).
The complex scenery is evocative of the cinematic setting, whether it be the Abbey in Salzburg or Georg’s stunning home. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding the technical difficulties tonight, with some scene changes clunky and too long, others too noisy behind the cloths, delayed lighting changes, and imbalances or interference with the mics. Hopefully this is no more than a series of mishaps that will be resolved for the rest of the week.
However, despite these issues, the story kept moving forward at a good steady pace and the entire company should be commended for the clarity of their diction. The stage lib means the escape seems more rushed than the film version, so you lose any tension or sense of danger, but this is due to the source material rather than anything else. The timing and balance of the thunder and lightening during the thunderstorm is particularly good, with a shout out to the two waitresses during the party scene – a masterclass in standing to attention without any fidgeting whatsoever!
The creative team of Alick Leech (Director), Martin Bennetts (Musical Director for a first-class orchestra) and Abbie Jennings (Choreographer) have crafted a faithful yet refreshing production of one of the most enduring and popular musicals. It may not have scaled peaks of perfection tonight, but The Point is certainly enjoyably alive with The Sound Of Music. The run continues from 12 – 14 May with performances at 7.30pm each evening and a 2.30pm Saturday matinee before cast and crew bid ‘So Long, Farewell’. Catch it while you can!