Connie Fisher, winner of the TV show How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria, proves why she won, wowing the audience in the hit show The Sound of Music, playing at the Liverpool Empire.
This is a show that everyone knows, it having been a hit film since 1965. But the stage show is relatively new, created by Andrew Lloyd Weber following his recent hit TV reality show to find the perfect Maria.
The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein is timeless and all the hit songs are there, The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music, Do Re Me, Climb Every Mountain etc, all sung with verve and meaning by the well chosen cast. And there are many comedic moments that give balance to the schmaltz of some scenes.
Fisher is a naive Maria, fresh and young, who plays the part sympathetically. She is matched by the tall handsome Michael Praed, as the stern Captain Von Trapp, a suave aristocratic widower with seven children. He has a fine singing voice and his acting is understated appropriate to his bearing.
The scenery is magnificent and shown to great effect on the big Empire stage, moving seamlessly from scene to scene. The children almost steal the show, especially the youngest, Gretl, played by six-year-old Claudia Hall, who, at her tender years, never put a foot wrong. With her hair in little knots at the top of her head, her cute face, and wispy voice she is a director's dream.
But it is not all sugar and spice. The Nazi undercurrent is ever present and comes into its own in the second half, when Captain Von Trapp and his fiancée fall out over the ideology of accepting impending Nazi dominance of Austria or defying the authorities.
Singing is a big part of this show, as Maria's love of song is one reason she is sent from the abbey to be governess to the Von Trapp family. She teaches the children, and her love of music eventually wins the heart of the Captain. But it also music that is their saviour as they use their entry into the Salzburg Music Festival to carry out their escape plan, as one by one they sing Farewell, Goodbye and escape out of the theatre and over the hills to Switzerland.
This is a show that is finely choreographed by Arlene Phillips of Strictly Come Dancing fame, with the orchestra deftly directed by Jonathan Hall.
As a show it is predictable as everyone knows the story, but there are some minor songs that are refreshingly different, not having been big hits. Although there are no big fireworks, the show does what it says on the tin and is a big crowd pleaser, with a packed house and a standing ovation. One wonders if the pull of Fisher was a big part of this.