It’s hard to reinvent a production set in the 1930s but a little more imagination and panache is needed to rescue this latest tour of The Sound of Music.
If you’ve not seen the film (I haven’t so not everyone has!) this is the story of loveable and feisty Maria Rainer and her struggle find her place in the world. Does she want to dedicate her life to God and become a nun or can this free-spirit shake up the regimented von Trapp household and breathe new life into Captain von Trapp?
The good; Grace Chapman shone brightest as eldest von Trapp Liesel, dazzling the audience with a strong vocal performance and fine footwork during Sixteen going on Seventeen with Luke George. She also had an authentic chemistry with her new Mother Maria (Jessica Daley), which was startling lacking elsewhere during this production.
The remaining six von Trapp children brought energy to the production and helped engineer real warmth and heart on stage with Cole Emsley (Friedrich) impressing when hitting those high notes during So Long, Farewell. Speaking of notes, Jan Hartley gave the most impressive vocal performance of the show during Climb Ev’ry Mountain and deserved her two hearty round of applauds.
The bad; this was an incredibly safe show which needed to break free of the shackles, just as the von Trapp’s do in the story. Jessica Daley was loveable as Maria but we didn’t see enough of her cheeky side to make her difficult decisions matter. The chemistry between her and Captain von Trapp was non-existent which made the love interest and speed of their romance almost comedic.
The character of Max Detweiler has probably the best chance of injecting somehumour into the show but even this was lost and not built on with potential jokes being lost. A few smiles and laughs from some good timing between the nuns, but largely this was a tame and all too gentle production saved only by memorable, timeless songs such as My Favourite Things and The Sound of Music.
This was a show suffering from a lack of direction meaning its capable cast were left exposed and ill equipped. Why, in a show so devoid of props, the guitar was so over used and the actors were not taught to use it correctly is bizarre and the use of battery operated flashlight torches in the second half was another faux pas by Martin Connor.
More needed to be teased out of the actors to bring their characters to life. More comedy needed from the characters previously mentioned, a slower blossoming romance between Maria and the Captain and Elsa Shraeder (Sarah Soetaert)needed to be more unlikeable to make us will Maria and the Captain together.
With more attention to detail and stronger direction, this cast could have used the strength of the shows well-loved numbers to really shine, but clangers like the torches, the guitar and lack of chemistry between the shows leads meant this was an overly long and flat production. The defeatist pace of the under-used ensemble during the finale summed it all up.
Review by Andy Edmeads