The Sound of Music tour continues at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London until 29 October.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Impresario Bill Kenwright was there to cast one last check on his Sound of Music tour which kicked off at Bromley in early 2015 with Danielle Hope as Maria and ends at Wimbledon with Irish discovery Lucy O’Byrne Do-Re-Mi-ing it on the start of a career surely headed for the top.
The classically-trained O’Byrne, runner-up in The Voice, took over the main role last December and was later joined by Andrew Lancel (ex Corrie villain and DI Manson for 300 episodes of The Bill) who, as Captain Von Trapp, reveals a rich baritone in his first musical since teenage days.
Kenwright loves promoting these reality and soap stars on stage – Hope won Lloyd Webber’s Over the Rainbow search – as they bring a built-in audience with them and there was a near full house at one of London’s biggest theatres (1,670 seats), no doubt helped by this being half-term.
Where the British theatre and Equity members in general would be without him is a whole lot poorer – he has just announced a tour of La Cage Aux Folles next year – and although he has his critics for doing things on the cheap, there is nothing cut-price about this set or production.
True, the swastika curtain was unwilling to drop during the festival competition and Von Trapp’s Act I suit looked in need of a good iron, but this 1959 show, from Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s book and turned into an multi Oscar-winner six years later, isn’t a classic for nothing.
It’s heart is in the right place, with a serious tale to tell behind its veneer of schmaltz, and Rodgers and Hammerstein aren’t known for dud songs, are they?
This was their final musical and it’s taken me 57 years to find my way to a show long avoided because of its sugar content, high enough, particularly in the cases of ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘My Favourite Things’, to make a diabetic keel over.
But its charm is undeniably contagious and enduring. Just to hear Mother Abbess Rebecca Caine’s ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ was worth the wait. This glorious Act I finale is beautifully performed and what a joy to hear a voice that doesn’t need to strain to reach those big notes.
My main problem with this revival is Lancel’s acting which doesn’t, for me, quite catch the rigid formality of this strict disciplinarian or the transformation from widower’s sadness to love of a governess regarded as far below his station.
The many kids in the audience naturally loved the seven Von Trapp children. Annie Holland has been playing the courting Liesl, while 18 different ones have been used in rotation for the six younger ones.
The ever-dependable Howard Samuels does well with the freeloading Max Detweiler, while Lucie Van Gass is posh, stylish Elsa Schraeder, who inevitably loses out in the romance stakes to the lovable, home-making Maria, so winningly sung and acted by O’Byrne.
Under Martin Connor’s fine direction, Bill Deamer’s choreography (particularly with ‘Do-Re-Mi’), Gary McCann’s classy set and MD David Steadman’s melodious band of ten, the hills have been alive to the sound of music for a heck of a long time up and down the country.
This was even its second time in Wimbledon – the original touring cast was there in mid-2015. So for now we have to say ‘So Long, Farewell’ to this heart-warmer.
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A tribute to Charmian Carr – The Sound of Music actress who played Liesl