The size of the first night audience suggested that the tills will be alive all week for Huddersfield LOC.
This would be no surprise. The Sound of Music occupies a special place in the affections of the western world and its songs seem to be hotwired into our brains. Even to those of us who have not seen the film, let alone a live performance, for decades, almost all of the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein are instantly familiar. This show is a phenomenon.
A sub-standard performance might have shattered the illusion, but fortunately The Sound of Music is very well served by this production, which utilises an excellent and adaptable set.
The adult leads are uniformly excellent and the youngsters playing the Von Trapp brood seemed to be note, word and move perfect on the first night. This is especially remarkable in the case of the very youngest of them and a real tribute to the production team led by director and choreographer Pam Strickland, with producer Steve Tetlow and musical director Caroline Kelly.
The Sound of Music has a bit of a kitsch reputation. The antics of the kids are occasionally a little twee and the strain of religiosity resulting from all those nuns and some rather overblown piety can be a little hard to take (although there is some very impressive choral singing from the sisters).
But this is a show set against a backdrop of the most tragic events of the 20th century, with the rise of Nazism and an act of principled resistance at its core. The final performance and the escape of the Von Trapps from a Nazified Austria is uplifting and is very well handled in this production. The fact that stormtroopers were menacingly positioned in the body of the theatre added a suitably sinister touch.
At its heart, however, The Sound of Music is a Cinderella tale, with the initially gauche and naïve nun-turned-governess Maria winning the heart of the aristocratic, emotionally damaged Captain Von Trapp.
The shift in the relationship between the two is rather abrupt. The Captain’s transition from distant employer to ardent lover seems to happen in the blink of an eye. But the two leads make it work in this production.
Neil Broadbent’s Captain is a stiff-backed aristocrat who never quite surrenders to his emotions – which is fully plausible – but he is also full of moral courage. As Maria, Laura Crowther is a completely loveable figure who seems to waft fresh Alpine air into all her scenes and songs. She sings beautifully, with a clarity that is truly Julie Andrewsesque.
There is operatic vocal power from Julia Gambit as the Abbess and Paul Bennett is very entertaining as the waspishly camp Max Detweiler. The Captain’s putative new wife, the moneyed Elsa Schraeder, is given a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal by Sharon Whitehead.
As the teen sweethearts, Chloe Byrnes as Liesl and Peter Turner as Rolf share a touching scene which makes his transition to committed Nazi all the more shocking.
This is a winning production that does full justice to a show that might just be the world’s favourite musical. It runs until Saturday, when there is also a matinee.
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