At the time of its first London production, I remember being disappointed in the staging of The Sound of Music. That’s certainly not the feeling received from Jeremy Sams’ touring production designed by Robert Jones. It’s flexible, fast-moving and puts proper weight on the political background of the story as well as allowing space for all those well-known tunes. Extremely effective results are obtained by deceptively simple means.
This is a show which requires thoroughly trained voices for Richard Rodgers’ score and Marilyn Hill Smith as the Abbess dominated, especially with the show-stopping “Climb every mountain”. Some of the fragile charm of the Liesl (Claire Fishenden) and Rolf (Chris Barton) duet was lost by the actors seeming mire comfortable with Arlene Phillips’ choreography than with Michael England’s assured musical direction for the vocals. Barton does make the postboy’s transformation into a Nazi stormtrooper very credible; that goes also for Tony Kemp as factotum Franz.
Maria is a tricky role to get right, with its blend of puppy enthusiasms and moral (if not social) certainties. Verity Rushworth looks the part but seems a little challenged by some of the tessitura of her music. Michael Praed is excellent as Captain von Trapp, not playing th role for sympathy but giving us a man of genuine convictions, convictions somehow mislaid by Martin Callaghan’s wryly adaptable Max and Jacinta Mulcahy’s thoroughly credible Baroness.
The small children are a delight, with the audience right on their side from the first entrance to the escape after the Salzburg concert, especially the miniature and pigtailed Gretl. At the end, there was a genuine standing ovation, not just the sort of first-night event orchestrated by friends of the cast. I think that quite a number would have been prepared to sit through the whole musical again. Immediately.