maria and children

Lucy O’Byrne as Maria with the Von Trapp children. Pictures: Mark Yeoman

The Sound Of Music

Wolverhampton Grand

****

WHEN one thinks of The Sound of Music, it is hard not to imagine singing children, the mountains of Austria and of course, Julie Andrews.

I must confess that I have never seen the film, but even without being a part of the fan club; I am no stranger to the famous ‘Do-Re-Me’ and ‘The Hills are Alive’ tunes. The 1965 film is iconic in its own right and it is easy to see an excitement that comes with it from the audience before entering the auditorium.

Perhaps I belong to the minority, but for those like me who are unfamiliar with the story, we follow the life of Maria Rainer, a ‘nun in training’ not yet ready to take vows

She lives in the local village Abbey, but Maria’s sisters are concerned about her larger than life character and doubt that she is fit for the cloth. Mother Superior then sends Maria on a mission to become the nanny to seven children of the local family whose father is always away on business.

There she meets stubborn Captain von Trapp and his children, who have forgotten how to have fun. With the help of Maria, the children learn to sing again and have a new source of life and love. The story is also set in Austria in the late 1930s and connotations of the Nazi regime are the driving force that completes the story.

Gary McCann’s design was a multi-purpose feast for the eyes that allowed the audience’s imagination to grow. Flats of great sizes flew down, which created slick and fast changes of scenes, mainly within the Abbey and Captain von Trapp’s lordly home. McCann captured the imagination of the audiencLiesl and Grubere to keep with the show’s fairy-tale qualities.

The colours of stained glass windows were remarkable and were easily changed into the scenes within the Von Trapp’s home. No matter where the eye wondered, there was always a mark of detail. There was a grand staircase with gold highlights and the shiniest floor.

The set integrated very well with Bill Deamer’s choreography. The most impressive scene design was seen within the marriage scene between Maria and von Trapp. Layers of flats were brought down to create a grand perspective of the depth and scale of the Abbey.

Annie Horn as Liesl and Kane Verrall as Rolf Gruber

With the size and impeccable attention to detail, it was almost as if the audience could imagine themselves as part of the ceremony. McCann’s costumes were also an asset to the grandeur of telling the story.

Of course the sweet little story wouldn’t be complete without the score of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The iconic numbers from the original production and film were beautifully reflected with the impressive talent from Lucy O’Byrne as Maria. O’Byrne was runner-up in the BBC’s The Voice UK. Her wonderful musical talent linked with theatrical training meant that she was a natural to fulfil the joyful character of lovely Maria. O’Byrne also did a great job in leading the cast of seven children, made up of fantastic little performers who were always in top-form. In bouncy songs such as ‘Do-Re-Me’, ‘Lonely Goatherd’ and ‘So Long, Farewell’, the children displayed remarkable performance qualities, with perfectly controlled choreography and beautiful harmonies. They were all a delight to watch.

Captain von Trapp was played by Andrew Lancel, who is probably best known for his portrayal of Villain of the Year Frank Foster in Coronation Street. At first we saw him as the stubborn and regimented father, who used a whistle to hail everyone in the house. With the arrival of Maria, he opened up to love and remembered how to be happy again. Lancel is more than impressive and holds a great RP accent.

His rendition of ‘Edelweiss’ is something to be remembered. The closing of each act was given to Jan Hartley who played Mother Abbess. Her beautiful soprano voice was enough to bring tears to the eyes and uplifted the entire audience as a beautiful wrap-up to each act. Hartley’s voice was the icing on the cake to an already touching piece of theatre. Musical Director David Steadman brought every fantastic element together to make the performance shine. The orchestra were a brilliant addition that highlighted the talent and brevity of all on stage.

Director Martin Connor has a very good eye for detail and gave the audience a show of delight and nostalgia. He was willing to personalise the iconic story and made the sweet show seem effortless on stage. He pays homage to the beautiful score of Rodgers and Hammerstein and allows the cast to use their talents to the best of their ability sparking the imagination of the audience from beginning to end. To 08-10-16.

Elizabeth Halpin

04-10-16

 

And from the foothills . . .

*****

THIS is a musical that climbs every mountain and reaches peaks of pleasure.

Based on the true story of Austria’s von Trapp family, the 1959 musical was turned into a brilliant movie, and the touring stage version seems to improve as it moves around the country.

Impressively staged, the show is packed with all the big moments enjoyed by cinema-goers, losing out only on the magnificent scenery and, perhaps, some of the nail-biting menace of the Nazis and their supporters at the start of World War II.

A terrific cast, well costumed, deliver all the big numbers with aplomb….and Jan Hartley, playing Mother Abbess, deserves special praise for the emotional Climb Ev’ry Mountain at the end of the first act. She earns a memorable ovation for that.

Lucy O’Byrne, runner-up in the BBC’s The Voice UK, is a delight as Maria, the abbey postulant who seems to be failing in her desire to be a nun and is sent to take another check on life outside as governess to the seven mischievous children of retired naval hero Captain von Trapp, a widower determined to bring up his youngsters with military-style discipline.

There is a fine performance too, from Andrew Lancel, as the stern Captain, all set to marry the rich and glamorous Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Lucy Van Gasse), and the former Coronation Street and The Bill star is convincing as he finds himself drawn to the fun-loving Maria, and he sings well, too.

Lucy and Andrew have the audience on the edge of their seats as they sing Edelweiss with the children at a concert used as a decoy to allow the family to escape before the brave Captain is forced to take command of a German warship.

The nuns in the cast, Kate Joyce-Scott, Zoe Ann Brown and Tammy Davies are excellent, while the seven children sing, act and drill joyfully.

Another special moment in a fine show comes with young Liesl (Annie Holland) and Rolf (Kane Verrall) singing and dancing to Sixteen Going on Seventeen.

Directed by Martin Connor with David Steadman’s skilful musical direction, The Sound of Music plays on to 08.10.16.

Paul Marston 

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