Reviewed at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
“It’s not the same as the original film, is it?” I heard another audience member as I headed out to the foyer during the interval of The Sound of Music. And while it’s easy to pour scorn at the impression that this stage musical is yet another recreation-of-a-beloved-film-on-stage, there’s no doubt that the Julie Andrews vehicle has pervaded popular culture so much that it completely dominates the collective memory of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s nuns-and-Nazis epic.
And so when Lucy O’Byrne begins to talk and sing, it is Andrews’ performance to which we instinctively compare it. And it must be said that she has that sparky, cut-glass RP accent down pat, although she is clearly more comfortable when singing than with her spoken dialogue. She has a sweet tone when singing, though, and the magnetism and charm with which she must win over the reticent von Trapp children is present in spades.
Although the opening abbey-set scenes are somewhat ponderous in pace, the show sparks into life as Maria arrives at the Trapp family home and is introduced to the patriarch, Captain Georg (Andrew Lancel). Lancel himself, better known for TV drama roles in Cardiac Arrest and Coronation Steet, grows in confidence throughout, in parallel with his character’s gradual blossoming out of grief and learning to love again. Unfortunately, his timing still needs work, often racing ahead of musical director Tim Whiting.
The route to Georg and Maria’s romance is accompanied by fine supporting performances from Lucy Van Gasse’s Frau Schrader and Duncan Smith’s camply comic Max Detweiler – who, with Lancel, get to perform the two songs How Can Love Survive? and No Way to Stop It that were omitted in the film adaptation – as well as Annie Holland’s perky Liesl. But the greatest musical performances in The Sound of Music come from the operatic lungs of the Mother Abbess – and Jan Hartley’s performance is a barnstorming one, bringing the first act to a rousing conclusion with Climb Ev’ry Mountain and acting as a loving mentor to O’Byrne’s Maria throughout.
Gary McCann’s design is a delight, and a practical achievement for a touring production. Sets echo the stone vaults of the abbey in the high arches of the Trapp mansion, while a succession of gilt-framed proscenia gives one the impression of the mountains of Salzburg being a three-dimensional oil painting.
The Aylesbury outing of this tour was the first for much of the cast, which perhaps explains the occasional moment of hesitancy. As the tour continues around the UK, it is sure to increase in confidence and stature.
For tour details, visit kenwright.com. Photo credit: Mark Yeoman