Tuesday, 20 September 2016

"The Sound Of Music"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The musical originated from 1959 and the film, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was based on the musical in 1965. It's the story of the Austrian Von Trapp family and the woman who changes their family for good, Maria.
Maria is studying to become a nun in Salzburg in 1938 when she's sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp, to be governess to his seven children. After bringing love and music into the lives of the family through kindness and patience, she marries Captain Von Trapp and together with the children they find a way to survive the loss of their homeland.
The first thing that strikes you about this production are the lush sets, the absolute grandiose of the Von Trapp residence as well as the massive nunnery with its incredible arches and library. 
The musical itself transports me, personally, back to my childhood days with the music and remembering seeing the film several times as a youngster, mainly at Christmas, watching with my parents.
This time round though you can appreciate the magnificence of this classic Rodgers & Hammerstein II music and lyrics as well as the symbolism and future threat of oncoming war always being omnipresent.
Talking of the music, there are some of most loved and remembered songs from musical theatre, as well as being responsible for some big chart hits. "Edelweiss", "Maria", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" all best selling hits for contemporary singers. match these with wonderfully crafted songs like "My Favourite Things", "Do Re Mi", "Sixteen Going On seventeen" and of course the title track. All wonderfully reproduced live by an excellent orchestra.
This production is a massive step up from the last production at the Nottingham theatre Royal and I think that is due to the main actors here having a musical/singing background. it really does make all the difference.

Lucy O Byrne (Maria) is a name, I'll admit isn't one that i knew before today but boy, what a talent. Sounding as crystal clear and diction perfect as the original Julie Andrews, she has a very natural stage presence which made you feel safe with her taking on the perfectly crafted boots of Dame Julie Andrews, and you instantly relaxed into enjoying her character. What a beautiful voice; I heard every word.
Andrew Lancel (Von Trapp) is an actor I've seen several times on stage, the last time in Derby for "The Damned United", but this is the first time that I'd seen him sing. And let me tell you, he can sing! I was very surprised at the lovely smooth tone of his singing voice and he handled the big songs as well as the quieter songs like "Edelweiss". A confident and authoritative air as Captain Von Trapp and you soon forget that he was once in "The Bill", "Bad Girls" and "Coronation Street". A very talented, chameleonic actor who makes you believe in every character he plays. 
Jan Hartley (Mother Abbess) is the owner of one incredible and emotive set of lungs. her version of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is the best since I first heard Patricia Routledge sing the role (yes Pat Routledge can actually sing and very well indeed). Jan received a very warm round of applause when she came on stage for the final bows, and richly deserved it was as well.
Lucy Van Gasse (Elsa Schraeder) is absolutely gorgeous with the most incredible chiselled cheek bones and I was wondering where I'd seen her before and discovered from the programme that she performs with Amici Forever. That also explains that beautiful voice then!
Howard Samuels (Max Detweiler) is another absolute joy as the camp friend of the Captain and the Baroness. Some lovely comedic touches from Mr Samuels.
Heading up the eldest of the Vonn Trapp children was Annie Holland (Liesl). This is her debut UK tour and I'll be looking out to see what is next for her.
There's sometimes a danger of the children chosen to be a tad "stage school" but not here. There's a few names to look out for in the future in this production because the talent is obvious when you see them. Zach Loizou (Frederick), Elsa McKenna (Louisa), Zac Pile (Kurt), Ruby Stokes (Brigitta), Jessie Popkiewicz-Smith (Marta) and Alana Willis (Gretl).
I must also mention Kane Verrall (Rolf) who I can see being a good song and dance man in the future. he looked very natural in both areas in his duet with Liesl on "Sixteen going On Seventeen", especially for quite a tall actor.
The lighting, the sound, the production and the whole staging was nothing less that perfect, and this could be the perfect musical, Well let's face it, it's got to be one of the longest running ones at 57 years, and it's still getting standing ovations and packed theatres.
"The Sound Of Music" is being performed at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 24 September 2016.

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