Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Sound of Music

The Sir Harry Secombe Youth Musical Theatre Company , Swansea Grand Theatre , September-18-04
The original stage production of The Sound of Music might predate the movie version by six years, but it is the film which lingers in the memory - and its glossy production numbers and iconic images have become so embedded in popular culture that any company trying to present it on stage has a very hard act to follow.

The Sir Harry Secombe Youth Musical Theatre Company(am I the only person to find that name far too long-winded, by the way?), helmed by producer/musical director Louise Doyle and director Kathryn Rice, has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and this has to rate as their best(and most commercially successful) production to date.

Due to the logistics of youth theatre, the roles of Maria and Captain Von Trapp were played by not just two but four performers during the four-show run: the performance I attended starred Celine Forrest and Nick Packer, though I did return a while later to see the alternative pairing of Stephanie Hughes and Michael Aubin - and it is fair to say that each of the players brought their own distinctive qualities to the role(Packer's rich, declamatory speaking voice, for example, scored over that of Aubin, but the latter's singing voice was altogether more mellow).

Celine Forrest's Maria was sweet - though not overly so - and her spellbinding vocal talents were perhaps more suited to the sense of period than that of Stephanie Hughes, whose gutsy interpretation and breakneck delivery nevertheless threw a refreshingly new light upon a familiar character.

Other standout performances included Rhys Scourfield's tour de force as Max Detweiler and an elegant, self-assured contribution from Maryse Forrest as Elsa Schraeder. Emily-Jayne Waters pulled off the challenging role of the Mother Abbess with some style, all the more so considering her tender years.

The Von Trapp children - Charlotte Jenkins, Michael Rees, KatieDavies, Jack Roberts, Catrin Byrne, Rebecca Davies and Katie Davies - were nothing short of perfect and provided the obligatory "aah" factor, while the Nazis(minus jackboots)had peculiarly long hair - indeed, Admiral Von Schreiber(a confident and commanding performance from Stefan Pejic)sported a ponytail which would doubtless have been frowned upon by the Fatherland's military hierarchy.

This was a smart and slick production, proving that - if given the right guidance and technical backup - young people can achieve great things. There are still too many directors out there who believe that hokey, patronising "rock musicals" - peppered with clumsy humour and badly written, derivative songs - are the be-all and end-all of youth theatre. Shows such as this one demonstrate that this need not be the case, and that even the most traditional and familiar shows can come up as fresh as paint if handled in the right way.

Reviewed by: Graham Williams

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