|*Thanks to New Theatre for review tickets.|
I love The Sound of Music; it’s one of those movies I can watch time and time again and I am a huge Julie Andrews fan! So, for me at least, trying to imagine the stage version of this musical classic is pretty hard, mostly due the vast scenery and scope needed to transfer the this beautiful story into a stage setting. Well, last night I was able to see how this all time classic musical could be transferred to stage, and I’ll tell you right now, I was not disappointed…
I think it’s always a bit of a crazy realisation to discover films that have been produced after the stage shows, and The Sound of Music is no exception. The stage show began in 1959 whereas the film was released in 1965, but my personal experience has always been the Julie Andrews movie. This obviously means I’d compare them in a way that seems the wrong way around, like reading a book after watching the movie version. However, I think this may be pretty common when it comes to The Sound of Music!
The Sound of Music follows the story of Maria, a young woman who is on the verge of becoming a nun, but due to her quirky and outspoken character (as well as her need to sing constantly!), she is sent away from the Abbey to consider her future. She is chosen to become the next in a long string of governesses for Captain von Trapp’s seven children, all of whom miss their late mother and are desperate for their father’s attention. Usually the children play tricks and force the governesses to leave, but Maria has a certain quality; a way of making the children feel safe and loved, happy and less alone, so obviously they fall in love with her, and so does their unsuspecting father…
Last night we were lucky enough to see this performance at New Theatre, and as the curtains were raised we were thrown into the world of Maria, performed by Lucy O’Byrne. I have to say, I was immediately taken by her performance, and to some extent I felt as though a huge tribute to Julie Andrews was taking place, yet at the same time Lucy O’Byrne retained some of her own take on the character of Maria. She was absolutely stunning as she sang The Sound of Music; her voice was so beautiful and I had goosebumps throughout the performance whenever she was on stage. Her performance made me feel like a little kid again, watching the movie for the first time; she was outstanding.
The von Trapp children were also exceptional; their timings with both sound and movement were spot on. Each child had a different personality and performed these perfectly, there were many ‘ahhhhhs’ across the audience as they each had their turn to shine, and shine they did. I think I’m right in saying we saw Clara Ross’s version of Marta, and I thought she was simply delightful; her voice was very pretty and she really stood out to me as she performed alongside her stage siblings. There is clearly a strong bond between the children and Maria, which was obvious (and really lovely!) as they performed on stage. I absolutely adored the performances of So Long, Farewell; it was as sweet as it is in the film version!
When it comes to Neil McDermott as Captain von Trapp, I have to admit I was a little sceptical during the first act. I am so used to his performance as Ryan in Eastenders that I needed time to warm to his version of the Captain. However, during the second act he absolutely won my heart as the loving father who is also against Hitler’s regime; both these elements win the character huge points but Neil’s performance of my favourite song, Edelweiss, completed his version of the character and I felt myself tearing up as he sang. He looked out into the audience with all the hope in his heart, and as he struggled to continue, his family join him and perform the most beautifully harmonised version of the song. I felt a lump rise in my throat as they sang, and it was then that I knew how perfectly cast Neil McDermott is.
Another outstanding performance was Megan Llewellyn’s version of Mother Abbess. Her operatic voice and projection blew the audience away. When the standing ovations began at the end of the performance they seemed to begin with Megan Llewellyn, then a ripple effect took place as the children, Neil McDermott and Lucy O’Byrne appeared on stage, until eventually the whole audience was standing up to applaud all the wonderful performances!
When it comes to the stage and set, it is both clever and simple, allowing the story to unfold without too much in the way of huge set changes or vast amounts of complicated equipment. This is perfect for this kind of performance where the focus is on the music, the relationships and the storyline. As you might already know, the story is set against the backdrop of World War II, but it’s only as an adult watching the story unfold that I realise how prominent the Nazi storyline is within this gorgeous production. As a child I would only see music and light, but as an adult I see so much more. However, I was lucky enough to sit next to Cardiff Mummy and her children last night, and her daughter was very profound when talking to me about the soldiers and why they behaved in the way that the did; we both agreed it boiled down to fear…
The only negative was the fact that I Have Confidence was excluded from the performance, but there are gorgeous performances of other songs to make up for this, including: The Sound of Music, Maria, My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen and The Lonely Goatherd.
I think this production is utterly wonderful. The stage and set is perfectly designed, the costumes are sweet (and certainly a homage to the original film version!) and the performances will leave you speechless!