THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The Bristol Hippodrome
Monday 22nd June – Saturday 4th July 2015
This week saw the opening of a new production of The Sound of Music which will play at The Bristol Hippodrome for two weeks.
I have no idea how many times I’ve watched The Sound of Music. When I was a child, settling down to watch one of the greatest musicals of all time (while the men headed out on a cold Boxing Day to watch football) was an essential part of my English Christmas.
This new Bill Kenwright production of the classic musical coincides with the 50th anniversary of the film version which I’m not surprised to learn is the most successful movie musical in history!
Apologies if I sound like I’m teaching Granny how to suck eggs here as I’m sure most of you are familiar with it, but I feel it would be remiss of me to omit a brief story synopsis. The Sound of Music tells the true story of the world-famous singing Trapp Family Singers, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their thrilling escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich at the start of WWII.
It all began with Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography, which inspired Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to create a Broadway musical in 1959 – and the rest, as they say, is history.
The score features some of the most memorable songs ever performed on stage, including ‘Edelweiss’, ‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, ‘So Long, Farewell’ and of course, the title song, ‘The Sound of Music’.
As I enter the theatre, I’m really looking forward to taking my family to see this musical classic and, as it’s such an established family show, I have no concerns about age suitability. I do wonder though, how they’ll modernise such an old classic for a modern audience.
The scenery is grand, impressive and varied. Within a few moments we’re effortlessly transported from the abbey to the mountains and then into to the Mother superior’s office. The nuns themselves aren’t afraid of hard work and carry furniture on and off when required. Extravagant backdrops are smoothly raised and lowered into place from above. My eleven year old is impressed with how the transitions flow automatically without pause. My six year old mentions how much he likes the church window. Me? I’m somewhat in awe of the Captain’s impressive house with its large staircase centrepiece which is used to great effect in a number of scenes and songs.
As they’re so proficient I almost forget the orchestra is there until I realise how the well the wedding atmosphere has been created with grand church organ music and effective lighting in the abbey.
Of course there are lots of lovely voices but I particularly enjoy the beautiful harmonies when the nuns sing “Maria” and also the vocal test, better known as “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, which the Mother Abbess passes with flying colours!
I really enyoy Sarah Soetaert’s performance as the Captain’s fiancee Elsa Schraeder. Her outfit, accent, poise and shoes ooze money, status and style. I find it hard not to like her, even though she’s standing in the way of our heroine Maria’s happiness. My Father mentions that some of the men in the audience might find her persona quite appealing too!
Elsa, Max and the Captain’s song “No Way to Stop it” is fun and less well known then many of the other numbers – in fact I’m still humming it now as I write!
The children’s performances are flawless. I watch them closely yet never see any hesitation in their choreography, however complicated. Absolute stars! I’m not sure whether to group Liesl in with the children, as she is “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, but the huge round of applause she (Grace Chapman) receives at the end is certainly justified.
My nine year old’s happy face is a picture as he silently mouths along to the familiar song lyrics. In stark contrast to my “Love Me Tender” parental fail last week, the children know all the songs and most of the words. The show’s quite long – we take our seats for a 7.30 start and the final curtain doesn’t come down until almost three hours later (with the usual brief interval after about an hour and a half). Despite the length, the boys’ attention is held throughout – in fact they’re so well behaved that the lady in front of us turns round to complement their excellent behaviour before leaving her seat.
TIPS / THINGS I’VE LEARNT
If you have a little one like I do, you might like to hire a comfy booster seat from reception. It costs a couple of pounds and you need to leave a five pound refundable deposit. My six year old is far more organised than me and reminds me of this as soon as we get to the Hippodrome!
Most of the plot is quite self-explanatory as it’s conveyed by a mixture of dialogue and songs, however my boys are slightly confused about the family’s nationality and initially miss the significance of their performance on a swastica festooned stage. A brief history lesson before the show would have given them a much better understanding.
At Tuesday’s press night Maria is played by Jessica Daley and not top billing Danielle Hope. Despite a competent performance, the adults in our party find we don’t warm to her and the Captain as much as we want to. The children love her and think the show is excellent. (I’m noticing a trend with the boys that they do enjoy a show where the story unfolds with dialogue and not songs alone.)
In answer to my question about how they could modernise such a long standing classic? – they don’t. There’s no gimmick here unless you count the quality of the set, which reminds me somewhat of Top Hat. This production is similar to the film and to other stage versions I’ve seen, which gives it that quaint, golden age feel. The one liners are still funny and the songs are still catchy, even though we know them like the back of our hand and perhaps partly because we know them like the back of our hand we find them all the more enjoyable.
CAST & CREDITS
Playing the iconic role of Maria von Trapp is DANIELLE HOPE, who captured the hearts of the country when she won BBC Television’s Over the Rainbow and made her professional debut as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. Joining the company as Captain von Trapp is stage and television star STEVEN HOUGHTON, well-known for his longstanding television roles in Coronation Street and London’s Burning.
Joining Danielle and Steven are West End stars Jan Hartley (Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story) and Sarah Soetaert (Chicago) who will play the Mother Abbess and Baroness Elsa Schrader, respectively, with Howard Samuels as Max, Grace Chapman as Liesl, Luke George as Rolf, Kate Milner Evans as Frau Schmidt and Martin Dickinson as Admiral Von Schreiber.
Completing the cast are Madeline Banbury, Lewis Barnshaw, Ellie Botterill, Zoe Ann Bown, Colin Burnicle, Elana Cerversi, Grace Chapman, Jessica Daley, Philip Day, Lynden Edwards, Cole Emsley, Grace Gardner, Libby Griffiths, Lewis Jamieson, William Keeler, Noah Key, Zach Loizou, Mia Long, Ava Merson-O’Brien, Isabelle Methven, Tilly Murray, Zaiya Omamon, Katie Shearman, Isabella Taylor, Joshua Warden, Liberty Wilson and Hanna Zienkiewicz.
Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by ‘The Trapp Family Singers’ by Maria Augusta Trapp.
Produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor, choreographed by Olivier Award winner Bill Deamer, musical direction by David Steadman.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Starring Danielle Hope & Steven Houghton
Monday 22nd June – Saturday 4th July
Evenings at 7.30pm
Matinees on Weds & Sat at 2.30pm
Tickets: £23.40 – £48.90
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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.