The Sound of Music Review – 31st August 2013 – matinee performance
It was even something of a surprise to me when I realised that in my years of theatregoing I had never seen a live stage production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, ‘The Sound of Music’. Therefore, an outing to the summer production at Regents Park Open Air Theatre seemed the perfect chance to rectify this. It was with some trepidation however, could the live version match up to such a much-loved movie?
I need not have worried. Director, Rachel Kavanaugh had assembled an exceptional cast whose crystal clear vocals rang out beautifully around the park venue. Michael Xavier was entirely believable as Captain von Trapp, from strict authoritarian to principled and kind father; it was a joy to see his character soften as he fell for the charms of Charlotte Wakefield’s spirited Maria. From her first appearance, Wakefield captures the both the attention and hearts of the audience, full of boundless energy and warmth. Her animated conversations with Mother Abbess (Helen Hobson) are a highlight, providing the perfect contrast to the otherwise reserved atmosphere in the convent.
Wakefield and Xavier are more than ably supported by a fine ensemble, including scene-stealers Michael Matus as Max Detweiler and Caroline Keiff as Elsa Shraeder plus of course the group of hugely endearing and preternaturally talented von Trapp children. Rogers and Hammerstein’s score is full of one musical theatre classic after another and although Act Two features many reprises, the score still somehow seems fresh without ever feeling repetitive. Alistair David’s choreography is performed with precision and the rapid-fire words and actions during ‘Do-Re-Mi’ was a real crowd pleaser. The references to the rise of the Nazi’s gives the show a real sense of impending danger but if I had a criticism it would be that after a prolonged build up to this the climax of the show feels slightly rushed.
Peter McKintosh’s set ably serves as the abbey, grand home of Captain von Trapp and the concert hall in which they perform. It perhaps lacked the vibrancy and colour to match the performances but Kavanaugh’s direction makes great use of the whole space, including having the cast weave through the audience and splash playfully in water surrounding the stage.
The Sound of Music was uplifting and full of heart and in the beautiful setting of Regents Park on a glorious summers day there was nowhere else I would rather have been. This was an excellent production that leaves any subsequent revivals with a lot to live up to.