By Liam McLoughlin 21/12/2015
The Sound of Music is not everyone’s cup of tea. 50 years ago it was the show critics loved to hate. One London critic in particular said it was ‘cringe-makingly ludicrous with a 50-year old woman (Mary Martin) capering around the stage pretending she was 20 with a gang of nauseating children’ while another wrote ‘if you’re a diabetic craving extra sweetness take a load of insulin to the Palace Theatre and you will not fail to thrill to The Sound of Music’. Before being cast as Maria for the movie adaptation, Julie Andrews herself had mocked the show in a sketch called ‘The Pratt Family’ at Carnegie Hall, and the movie’s Captain, Christopher Plummer, nicknamed it The Sound of Mucus.
Mercifully I’m a real sweet tooth. Yes, you could be all grouchy and cynical and question why Captain Von Trapp seems equally upset that Maria uses curtains to dress his children and that the Nazis are occupying Austria. You might think the Nazis should have taken the hint at the concert hall when the Von Trapps sing 'goodbye' over and over again. You might consult a thesaurus to find intelligent synonyms for sugary. Or you could stop trying to be so cool and better than everything and find this sentimental feast entirely delightful. Thanks to superb performances, spectacular staging, affecting moments and excellent execution of all your favourite songs, this reincarnation of the Von Trapp story is an absolute treat.
Amy Lehpamer is stunning as Maria. She’s an enchanting stage presence with boundless warmth to share. Her youthful beauty and short blonde hairdo pay tribute to Julie Andrews’ Maria and Lehpamer comfortably fills Andrews’ shoes. Her beautiful renditions of ‘Something Good’, ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and the title track make it clear we are in the presence of a prodigious musical theatre talent. Speaking of which, Jacqueline Dark is superb in the role of Mother Abbess. Her compassion shines through as does her soaring vocal ability. The hairs on the back of my neck were especially moved by her stirring performance of 'Climb Every Mountain'. Far from nauseating, the Von Trapp kids are terrific, ranging from the hilariously cute Gretl (Nakita Clarke) to the convincingly sceptical Liesl (Stefanie Jones).
The staging and choreography match the quality of the performances. The grand abbey, the Captian’s mansion and the green hills roll in and out seamlessly and the energy and movement in ‘Do-Re-Mi’ early in the show set a wonderful tone. There are also moments of arresting visual beauty, usually starring large groups of nuns with candles.
The show also connects with the audience emotionally. When Captain Von Trapp softens towards his children and the kids all crowd in for a big group hug, the eye moisture levels in the auditorium are astronomical. When gigantic blood-red Nazi flags festoon the auditorium and Nazi storm troopers pour into the audience, I for one feel ery uncomfortable.
The Sound of Music has always been silly, sweet, and wonderful. It’s the kind of show you review and write about Nazis and group hugs in the same paragraph. I loved the movie as a kid and love this stage revival as an adult. As did the full house at the Capitol, judging by their standing ovation.
If you enjoy sweet treats, you will too.
4 stars out of 5
The Sound of Music
Music: Richard Rodgers
Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Book: Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Director: Jeremy Sams
Set and Costume Designer: Robert Jones
Choreographer: Arlene Phillips
Cast: Johanna Allen, Lorraine Bayly, Eleanor Blythman, Du Toit Bredenkamo, Nakita Clarke, Savannah Clarke, Cameron Daddo, Jacqueline Dark, Phillip Dodd, Louis Fontaine, Erica Giles, David James, Stefanie Jones, Amy Lehpamer, Dominica Matthews, Jude Padden-Row, Marina Prior, Madison Russo.