Musical Review – The Sound of Music

Jan 22 2010 | By More

★★★★★    Vibrant

Edinburgh Playhouse: Mon 20 Jan – Sat 20 Feb 2010
Review by Thom Dibdin

Bright and impeccably cheery, but harbouring a darkly sinister note, the big touring revival of the Sound of Music gives the film version a run for its money – and even betters it on some levels.

The big name stars all perform excellently. Connie Fisher, who won BBC1’s talent show to fill the role, has the vocal drama for Maria; West End star Margaret Preece the power needed for the Abbess; and one-time Robin Hood Michael Praed oozes charm as Captain von Trapp.

There’s depth to the talent on stage, too, with Jacinta Mulcahy and Martin Callaghan putting in a great acting performances as Baroness Schraeder and Max Detweiler. While the troupe of youngsters who play the seven von Trapp children are spot on vocally and dramatically.

Of course Connie Fisher is the big attraction. Any concerns as to her ability to perform are completely unfounded. She’s not the most powerfully voiced Maria ever to get high on a hill with a lonely goatherd, but her warm, vibrant voice makes up for that and it gives an easy drama to the music.

Margaret Preece plays the Mother Abbess of Nonnberg Abbey in Austria, who sends over-lively young novice Maria Rainer out into the world as a governess to the von Trapp family to test her calling. Preece’s opera background gives her the perfect vehicle with which to deliver the climatic Climb Ev’ry Mountain which ends Act One.

Comparisons to the film will be inevitable and it is Michael Praed who loses out most – simply because von Trapp doesn’t get to hunk around being gruff at the start of the musical as much as he does in the film. Nor does he sing that first, oh-so-romantic, Edelweiss with Maria and the children.

If you didn’t know that, however, Praed is a brilliant von Trapp. You really get his dispassion for his family at the start of the show – while his distaste for his fellow Austrians who are about to welcome the Nazis into their country is nicely portrayed. As for the singing, he is more than capable of everything needed.

What is wonderful for any fan of musical theatre – or indeed any kind of live theatre – are the production values on show. The cast is huge, which really adds to the party scenes as von Trapp introduces his intended, Baroness Schraeder, to the local bigwigs.

The talent goes right through the cast too. There are no really huge, show-stopping, show-off set pieces, just a succession of scenes that are played with the kind of casual charm that hides real dexterity and professionalism in a company.

Where the musical scores heavily over the film is in its dramatic edge. There’s nothing too saccharine here, and while it takes all the shortcuts of musical theatre it also brings some aditional strong drama into the plot around the Anschluss which causes the von Trapps to flee the now Nazi-run Austria.

The big finale concert scene, where the family perform in front of the Nazis is brilliantly staged. Stormtroopers take to the theatre’s boxes and director Jeremy Sams has introduced some really menacing little touches, that completely nullify any kitsch in the music or choreography.

Indeed, the staging gives Edelweiss an edge and depth which can easily be missing in lesser productions.

All told, a production which does justice to the time and expense spent on it, both by the producers and its audience.

Run continues to Saturday 20 February
Further details on the Edinburgh Playhouse Website

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Comments (2)

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  1. Martin Gray says:

    Very fair review; this well-staged, nicely pitched show was a joy after the kitsch excesses of We Will Rock You. Connie Fisher was great, if a little too Julie-alike, while Michael Praed was a revelation – Robin, the tonsiled man. And those young ‘uns, heck, the whole cast and crew . . . fantastic musical theatre.