There's always going to be a certain level of audience expectation with any production of a musical as well-known and loved as The Sound of Music. With this comes the risk that the audience will spend the evening comparing it to other versions, particularly in this case to the iconic film.
But fans and sceptics alike will not be disappointed by the production at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park. Director Rachel Kavanaugh has rightly realised that it's the songs that matter, and from the opening sweetly-sung Preludium from the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey it's clear we're in for something special. The arrival of Maria (Charlotte Wakefield) singing the title song confirms this and from then on the musical standard achieved under the guidance of musical director Stephen Ridley remains extremely high.
Wakefield is a delightful Maria, moving through the roles of boisterous trainee nun to exuberant governess and on to Baroness von Trapp exuding the warmth, humour and energy that transforms the lives of the unhappy von Trapp children and their father Captain von Trapp (Michael Xavier). The children, all seven of them, are equally delightful and sing and dance with the confidence and talent of any of the older cast members around them.
The Anschluss and the split it caused in Austrian society runs through the story as a clear threat. Rolf the telegram boy (Joshua Tonks) joins the Nazis. Max the Captain's friend tries to keep the powers in Berlin sweet and in the song "No Way to Stop It" he and Elsa (Caroline Keiff) the Captain's fiancee, make clear their willingness to sell out to the new regime. The arrival of Stormtroopers amongst the audience as the Von Trapp family sing at the music festival adds a frisson of fear to the family's final escape to the mountains.
The set, designed by Peter McKintosh (who is also responsible for the costumes), a generic old house, serves well as the Abbey, the Von Trapp residence and at the end the mountains that the family must climb to escape their Nazi pursuers. Lighting (Tim Mitchell) and sound design (Nick Lidster) also contribute to the high standard of the production overall.
This is The Sound of Music for veterans and novices alike. The high quality of the whole production guarantees it will definitely be up there with "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" as one of your favourite things in the capital this summer.
- Louise Gooding
Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing on 20 August 2013 and get your top-price ticket, a FREE programme and a FREE drink at our EXCLUSIVE post-show meet & greet with the cast for just £35.00! Click here for more info.