Friday, 9 August 2013

Mail Online - SOM Review

I thought it was about time I started to post some of the many glowing reviews of 'The Sound of Music' that are now available online.

Obviously a lot of these focus on the leads Charlotte Wakefield and Michael Xavier but most also go on to say how wonderful the entire cast is in what they all agree is a truly excellent production.

Patrick Marmion

Now, it seems only about five minutes since Connie Fisher starred in the West End revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Alpine musical.

But clearly the chance to dress up as nuns and Nazis all over again has proved too much for producers at the Open Air Theatre to resist. And who can blame them? 

The Sound Of Music remains one of our favourite things. And it slots perfectly into Regent’s Park — turning a verdant glade into a  glorious Austrian mountainside teeming with music and song.
As we know from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV search, the show hinges on solving the problem  of Maria. Here, though, in Charlotte Wakefield we have an absolutely delightful and endlessly plucky Maria who climbs every peak in the part — and a few more besides. 

The shadow of Julie Andrews is banished by Wakefield’s girlish sunshine, and at first she runs on and off stage so fast she risks doing herself an injury. Once she settles down, the utterly disarming 22-year-old has a big, warm presence, a huge smile and a voice that peals through the evening air.
Crucially, Wakefield is adored by Von Trapp’s seven children. And what children! Alternating three sets of child actors in each role, they are sweet without cloying.

Faye Brookes, as the eldest, Liesl, leads by example: her blushing innocence cut with a streak of teenage bloody mindedness. 

Her younger siblings, meanwhile, have the audience billing and  cooing with joy and delight. My nine-year-old daughter was riveted (for the umpteenth time) by their exploits. Happily, therefore, the show ends just about early enough (10.15pm) to take a child as a treat.

Rachel Kavanaugh’s warm,  simple production does also have what Alan Hansen would call strength in depth. 

Caroline Keiff carries off the part of the wealthy, would-be stepmother without resorting to pantomime villainy. You even have to wonder if she wouldn’t have made a good match for Von Trapp — her satin dresses must at least have given him pause for thought. 

As the Captain, Michael Xavier is cast for soft pliable good looks rather than the impregnable military bearing of Christopher Plummer. He could do with a little more charisma, perhaps; but he gallantly allows Wakefield to shine.

The show affords no big Busby choreographic opportunities, but Alistair David has the actors charmingly falling into step in the intimate numbers and mercifully no one trips over the gorgeous ballgowns in the climactic waltz. Meanwhile, Peter McKintosh’s design is careful to take the play’s politics seriously, with the Nazi invasion of Austria signified by a shock of red, white and black  swastika banners. 

Otherwise this is a yellow, sunny arena trimmed with austere gunmetal casements and a sweeping staircase. 

The stage is left clear for the main event: a procession of songs that have passed into musical legend.

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