23 June to 4 July 2015
Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
I love a night out at the Bristol Hippodrome to see the musical The Sound of Music. On arrival we were lucky enough to find a parking spot very close by on the neighbouring Park Street and strolled down the hill to this beautiful theatre. As we went to find our seats, the orchestra were settling into the pit and there was a definite sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.
The story, and the score, are so well known throughout the world thanks to the multi-award-winning film and yet this production brought both a familiarity and immensely absorbing freshness to the stage. Based on the memoirs of the von Trapp family, this charming musical is about a young, naive Austrian woman training to become a nun in Salzburg in 1938. Unable to harness her youthful exuberance and passion for life within the confines of the Abbey, the nuns decide to send her to the home of a retired naval officer and widower to be the governess to his seven children. Her kindness and love of singing is then destined to change all their lives during a frightening and uncertain time in world history.
I am always struck by the incredible stage scenery and backdrops at the Hippodrome and tonight was no exception. The curtains opened to reveal the Abbey with the nuns walking the cloisters and the large, central stained glass windows, stone pillows and arches. The artistry in the various set changes is simply stunning and the orchestra is absolutely superb at marching this story along under the musical directorship of David Steadman.
I did not realise how much I loved this story and, as each hotly awaited song started, I literally felt shivers run down my spine. By the time the interval came, I did feel a strong urge to blast out a couple of numbers myself. If only I could sing.
Everyone on the stage deserves a mention from tonight’s performance. Jessica Daley, in the role of Maria was both enchanting and pitch perfect. She was charismatic and very credible in this wonderful role. The nuns, individually and as a choir, gave truly beautiful renditions of a fabulous score throughout the evening. At times, you could believe you were actually in church. Jan Hartley, as Mother Abbess, had many opportunities to show off a remarkable set of lungs which could have left a fair few ornate windows shattered, what a voice. The children were all faultless and adorable. Grace Chapman, in particular, in the role of the eldest child, Liesl, has an eyebrow-raising, crystal clear, tone. Steven Houghton, as the devilishly handsome Captain von Trapp, was both strong and masterful and coupled with Sarah Soetaert, as the exquisitely stylish Elsa, has some unexpected show stealing scenes with some songs that I did not recognise from the film version. Howard Samuels, as Max, and Luke George, playing a young Rolf, both added a welcome comedic and touching dimension to the show. I could go on and on. A very talented cast indeed.
And before I conclude, I have to mention the costumes. Maria’s baggy smock dress through to her Baroness fitted finery are wonderfully styled. All the children’s “uniforms” and their various ensembles from curtain customised outfits to wedding attire helped to bring the story to life. The attention to detail on everything from the men’s suits through to the gorgeous dresses and drab habits added considerable substances to this production.
And to top it all, I literally can’t stop humming “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Maria” and “Do-Re-Me”. What has happened to me?
But, families with young children, be warned. This is a long, old show. Act 1 is a meaty hour and half long. As a result, I did notice a number of the younger members of the audience being lead out, sleepy and homeward bound, during the interval which is a shame for the older, more robust, family members. In Act 2, many of the numbers from Act 1 are repeated and the love story between Maria and the Baron suddenly took off and raced so swiftly down the aisle, it made my head spin a little. Having said all that, I smiled thorough out the evening, tapped my foot and thoroughly enjoyed that magnificent orchestra and fell in love with this particular old favourite all over again.
Tickets cost from £23.40 to £48.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
The Sound of Music is at the Bristol Hippodrome until 4 July 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012