Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Spectacular, sweeping and brilliant

The Sound of Music

Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and The Really Useful Group , Wales Millennium Centre , August 4, 2009
The Sound of Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and The Really Useful Group Once again the iconic Wales Millennium Centre, glistening in the summer sunlight, brings us first class international quality music theatre. Producer Andrew Lloyd Webber, sitting proudly in the stalls, describes himself as a complete quality control freak. If this is what it takes to ensure that all his productions are as this good, then good on him.

The overwhelming, seductive, sweeping music from this first class orchestra brilliantly directed by Jonathan Gill and every single note sung, from the opening ‘Sound of Music’ from Connie Fisher’s feisty Maria to the final reprise of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ led by the delightfully loud, determined and fine operatic singing of Margaret Preece, as a very understanding Mother Abbess was all crystal clear. An achievement often missed by many visiting musical productions.

Spectacular scenery, with excellent, very apposite costumes by Robert Jones, moved with a magical and musical smoothness from one scene to another, although the mountains didn’t quite come up to scratch. Arlene Phillips’ subtle choreography ideally fits the music and the varying moods of the story. Resident Director Gavin Mitford perfectly captures the original direction of Jeremy Sams.

This attention to details is very necessary otherwise this big soppy story could easily slip into sentimental hogwash. All the members of the cast pitch it just right to catch the believability of this modern day fairytale. None more than Michael Praed’s Captain Von Trapp, the easy realism of his acting is a joy to watch as he moves from troubled widower marching his seven beautiful children, with a touch of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s control freakery, controlling them with sharp blows from his Bo’ sun’s whistle to festival concert artist with his moving rendering of ‘Edelweiss’.

Here he is once again accompanied by the charming singing of his children. There are three groups of young actors available to play each role and I am sure that they are equally captivating. Again they convince but not overwhelm with their sincerity. The boys are boys but still very loving, little Brigitta may be under ten but she knows everything, well nearly everything and the tiniest one Gretl steals all our hearts.

Clair Fishenden as Liesl and her ‘boy friend’ Rolf played by Jeremy Taylor could bring a little more life to their portrait of young love turning sour. Martin Callaghan hits the right note with his ‘in your face’, pragmatic Max and Jacinta Mulcahy is suitably haughty as the baroness, a stumbling block in Maria’s search for happiness.

The nuns are very atmospheric in their well pitched ecclesiastical signing and very jolly when they are trying to ‘Solve a problem like Maria’.

How do you solve a problem like Maria? There are some people who react very cynically to these TV reality shows and it is a pity that so many have to lose. But as it has brought a little known actress from West Wales to West End stardom and allowed her to fulfil her dream and for so many of us to share that dream with her, then once again ALW has shown he is a master.

Connie Fisher may not have the big voice to make the hairs on the back of our necks tingle as she takes up into the Austrian hills but she is the most engaging of performers and with her great sense of fun, we are all taken delightfully along with her. Her greatest strength is her own joy of just being there. She is a consummate performer, she needs to strengthen her belief in herself but along with the capacity audience that gave her a huge standing ovation at the curtain call I look forward to seeing a lot more of her.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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