Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
This review was timed perfectly, as it just happened that my 8-year-old daughter watched the movie version of The Sound of Music with me for the first time around a month ago. She loved the story and the music, so I was so pleased to be able to take her along to the show, as there’s a real nostalgia of my watching the film on rainy days with my own mum as a child.
We both love the Bradford Alhambra as it’s so easy to get to by train, with just a short walk from the station. There is plenty of car-park availability close to the theatre, but the train journey adds to the fun for an 8-year-old!
The theatre has lovely bar and restaurant areas to wait in before the show, as well as a snack kiosk which is great for unorganised parents like me! We just love the relaxed atmosphere, the staff and the gorgeous seating and stage area in the main auditorium.
I would imagine that most people who come to see this show will have watched the movie, but for those who haven’t seen it the play is set in Salzburg, Austria, in 1938. Maria is a postulant (played by Emilie Fleming) and is sent to the home of retired naval officer and widower Captain von Trapp (Andrew Lancel) as her future as a nun is called into question. Maria is to take on the role of governess to his seven children on a temporary basis and ends up bringing fun and music back into the children’s lives. It is a story of family, love and the effects of the union of Austria with Germany under Hilter’s reign.
I think with any show like this you try not to make comparisons with the movie and film actors and attempt to keep an open mind. Julie Andrews is a tough act to follow… yet Fleming managed it with real class.
The play has all off the songs from the film plus some bonus numbers, and I have to say the casting, singing and chemistry between characters was on par with the movie at the very least. I felt much more of a range of emotions throughout the theatre performance, and the relationship between Maria and the Captain felt more believable, as the harsh side of his character was slightly softened.
Fleming and Lancel were a perfect coupling, their singing was first class and I felt a real empathy for their characters.
The opening scene was stunning; the scenery, lighting, chanting and even the way the actors moved transported you to the Abbey. The scenery throughout was really well thought out and effective.
One of my favourite scenes (spoiler alert) was at Maria’s wedding when the nuns broke into a slow rendition of “How do you solve a problem like Maria”; it was emotional and so beautiful, it gave me goosebumps.
The relationship between the children and Maria felt warm and believable; in fact, the children were individually and collectively amazing. Their performances all felt natural and their harmonies were faultless… even the way that the children laughed didn’t feel forced. I think my favourite song involving them was “Do-Re-Mi”, due to the beautiful singing but also the development of their relationship with Maria as the song progressed.
I have to admit that, in the film, I found some of the scenes set within the abbey to be a little dull and I didn’t care much for the song “Climb Every Mountain”. However, the show managed to capture a stronger and more relaxed relationship between Maria and Mother Abbess, and a real emotion during the numbers. In the closing moments of the first act, I was close to tears at the most beautiful rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” that it is in fact in my top three numbers of the night.
What I liked about this production in comparison to the film, was the addition of some comedy. It was only a sprinkling here and there, but it created a lovely balance between the more dramatic scenes. The character of The Baroness had much more depth as we see her feelings towards Maria and the children more exaggerated. I found this character development a real bonus to the show and she really made me laugh at times.
The final scene made both myself and my daughter incredibly emotional. It was well directed, simple yet so powerful.
I feel a genuine guilt for not mentioning every actor and song as I could compliment every scene of this show, it was simply faultless.
When I write these reviews I always like to add at least a slight critique, but I honestly have nothing but positive comments to make and this is echoed by the thundering applause and standing ovation on the night. My daughter wanted to award the show 100 stars, but we compromised on 5 stars out of 5. An amazing cast, faultless performances and just a wonderful evening out.
Tickets cost from £18 to £43.50 (booking fees may apply).
The Sound of Music is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford from 25-29 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01274 432000.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000