Oxford Operatic Society has become known over the years for their classy productions of musicals young and old, of all genres. This spring it is the turn of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music to get the OOS treatment. The story needs no introduction, nor do the tunes. The twenty-one piece orchestra, led by Julie Todd, sound as professional as any orchestra I have encountered in Oxford theatregoing. Sadly the same can't be said for the set – in Guy Brigg's production bare spaces are favoured rather than glorious sets or expansive furniture. The New Theatre's proscenium arch may be one of the widest on the circuit,but the company surely should have enough experience to deal with the challenge. However, if there is one musical which stands or falls on its casting, it is The Sound of Music. With the ultimate hum-ability, if you have a Maria who can't Climb Ev'ry Note (sorry, couldn't resist) or a family who can't Do-re-mi, you have little to fall back on. No such issues here – Catharine Blagrove (alternating as Maria with Hannah Veale, each with their own team of children) delivers each melody with a fantastically clear voice, while the von Trapp children let their personalities shine through. India Shaw Smith has a lovely shade of vulnerability in her Liesl, matched by the finest voice on display in the production. Captain von Trapp is one of the hardest characters to play endearingly, a feat Andrew Moore reached with ease. Tim Younger as Franz and Jackie Rumsby as Frau Schmidt complete the household with fine flourish and affection, respectively. The wider ensemble gel wonderfully, although I can't understand why The Lonely Goatherd needs a cast of thirty-five (complete with puppet goats), neither why I Have Confidence should resemble a village fete, especially when we lose Maria in the throng.
Lighting was sadly under par – too frequently were actors left in the dark during exchanges or lit with no degree of focus. I don't envy any sound team trying to work with alternate casts, however the balance could be strengthened. These will surely improve over the course of the week. Overall, this is a very touching production of a great musical. The society can take great pride in the cast they have assembled. It's half term, so what better excuse is there to take the family out to the theatre in this family-friendly and inspiring production?Daniel Whitley