Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Sound of Music

Andrew Lloyd Webber David Ian and The Really Useful Group , Wales Millennium Centre , August-25-11
The Sound of Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber David Ian and The Really Useful Group Today very few young people go into holy orders for a career, take vows of poverty chastity and obedience and serve their surrounding Christian community. These communities themselves are at the present time also continuing to diminish. Back in the 1930s and 40s Christianity thrived all over Europe and beyond, many young people were attracted to serve the church.

A small girl living in the foothills of the Austrian Alps on the edge of Salzburg, her house overlooking the garden of the local convent was entranced by the daily activities of the nuns there. As soon as she was old enough she gave up her life in the hills and entered the convent to become a nun. Whilst she was happy to take her vows she could not prevent her inner free spirit from battling against her decision. After a while the wise Mother Abbess decided that the closeted life was not for Maria and suggested she take a break from the convent. Maria was sent to be a governess to the seven children of a widowed naval captain, a dedicated and proud Austrian who had been commended for his bravery.

Hitler had come to power in the neighbouring Germany and his annexing of Austria, the Anschluss was about to happen. In no way would Captain Georg allow his Austrian to give in to this usurper. There was only one fatal punishment for this attitude. He, his children and Maria, now his wife, just managed to escape across the Austrian Alps into Switzerland in the nick of time.

Only the genius of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein could turn such a dramatic story into the great chocolate box of delight that was served up for us by this exciting company. This production exuded music theatre excellence in every area. The cast introduced a captivating air of realism into the fairy tale telling of the story. Verity Rushworth not only sang with a beautiful clarity but she had an exciting dash to her performance that never failed to charm and thrill.

The light-footed Jason Donavan had determined to give the captain a well rounded character. We had military rigidity to start which was gradually smoothed away as love and Maria slowly took over his life. His rendering of Edelweiss I found particularly moving.

Everything about this production, the colour, the scenery, the movement, the singing and the music, under the deft control of Musical Director Michael England was near perfection, except the children. They were perfect. The young ones were an absolute delight. Claire Fishenden as Liesl was the epitome of emerging young teenage love. Chris Bartonís Rolf may have disappointed by his conversion to Nazism but the innocent confidence of his earlier appearance is brought back to mind as he gives the plot its vital turn leading to the familyís safe escape.

Jacinta Mulcahy as the baroness, Martin Callaghan as Max and Jenna Boyd as Frau Schmidt gave us well drawn characterisations and spirited performances. This production had quite a different flavour from the previous visit in 2009. The Sound of Music is a very special show and I expect more of its excellence will be seen back here again.

There were many moments of fun and delight throughout the performance and excellent singing none more so than Marilyn Hill Smithís powerful, moving and operatic Climb Every Mountain that brought the first half to its wonderful dramatic close.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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