EAST MIDLANDS THEATRE
Reviewed by Phil Lowe
Nottingham Operatic Society’s 2019 production of The Sound Of Music is exceptionally well done on all fronts. Every single lead performer, young actor, ensemble member and orchestra player bring this gloriously evocative Rodgers and Hammerstein II musical theatre piece to life.
The classy, refined direction and choreography by Dave Partridge gives his Sound of Music a definite feel of professionalism. The show’s musical director Morven Harrison directs Nottingham Operatic Society’s fine orchestra with aplomb and finesse.
Nottingham Operatic have been very clever this year with their stylish set design that uses the illusion of quality made high archways that double as the Nonnberg Abbey cloisters and, with some dressing and minimal period furniture, smoothly turn into the Von Trapp home. When the Nazi banners cascade in the second half there is a palpable feeling of fear and loathing amongst the cast.
All of the well known songs are superbly and naturally delivered by this talented cast and Nottingham Operatic have found their perfect Maria Rainer in the gifted form of Abby Wells. Wells sings like an angel and gives us a very warm, playful, self doubting, and loving Maria who works particularly well with the Von Trapp children who are played by the Blue Team tonight. Their interactions throughout the show are delightfully heart warming. Zak Charlesworth (Rolf Gruber) and Laurel Fiddes (Liesl) capture our hearts in the Sixteen Going On Seventeen section and song.
This reviewer finds himself getting quite emotional at hearing and seeing songs like Edelweiss, The Lonely Goatherd, So Long, Farewell, and Do-Re-Mi performed, as they remind him of his own childhood and endless enjoyable hours of watching repeats of the film version on the telly.
Paul Johnson gives a solid and likeable performance as Captain Georg Von Trapp, a strict man who learns to love his children again after the death of his wife and finds unexpected love in Maria. Kate Taylor gives her Mother Abbess strong levels of character showing us the Mother Abbess as a very human personality behind the gowns of her religious office. The actresses playing and singing as the nuns are terrific.
We love Simon Theobold as the slightly camp businessman and concert organiser Max Detweiller and Louise Grantham is radiant as high class socialite Elsa Schraeder. Linda Croston is formidable as Frau Schmidt the Von Trapp housekeeper.
This is only the second production of The Sound of Music this reviewer has seen on stage. Both productions were on the Nottingham Theatre Royal stage. The first one was professional and this shining example tonight is as professional as amateur musical theatre companies get. Perfect in every way. What a show!
Reviewed by Martin Holtom
Although The Sound of Music is one of the all time most successful Musicals on both stage and film with, in some cases, an almost maniacal following, it has in the past left me rather cold with somewhat mechanical lacklustre productions. However, this was very far from the case with the excellent production by Nottingham Operatic tonight.
From the very first bars of the overture I realised that this was going to high quality production as Morven led her very talented on-stage orchestra with great sensitivity to the score. Indeed throughout the night the balance she maintained between the orchestration and vocal performances set the foundation for the overall experience.
First and foremost, any production of The Sound of Music stands or falls on the success of the casting of Maria and the Children and tonight Abbey Wells and the Green Team of Laurel Fiddes, Daniel Lane, Evie Midgley, Harrison Ince, Felicity Holman, Isabella Gallagher and Grace Hindle exploded onto the stage with enthusiasm, energy and significant vocal and acting skills. Abbey’s portrayal was exceptionally well judged and was at all times believable, from her early days as a nervous postulant, to the conclusion leading her children from Nazi occupied Austria over the mountains.
Kate Taylor, Fiona McHugh, Alison Hope and the whole chorus of Nuns managed to avoid all the clichés that could have detracted from their scenes and provided great vocal support and leadership in such classics as “Maria” and of course “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” which closed Act 1 with great effect.
Paul Johnson played Captain Von Trapp with a great blend of understatement and strength and brought out the light and shade of the head of the family from the outset. This was a refreshing change from the typical characterisation that switches too rapidly from draconian patriarch to gentle husband making this one of the most believable Captain von Trapp’s I have seen.
Zak Charlesworth was on great form as Rolf both vocally and also in his acting where he manged to portray how even the most gentle individual can be led astray by “mob mentality” but who still, at the crunch, does the right thing.
The supporting principals, Nuns, Novices, Postulants, Neighbours, German Soldiers and Contestants at the festival concert all provided great supporting performances that added to the overall professional delivery of the Production. Sound and Lighting were impeccable throughout as was the rapid scene changes from the backstage team. The set was at all times effective as were the excellent costumes.
It was a very enjoyable, energy driven production which is a great testament to the work of Dave Partridge as both Director and Choreographer. Many congratulations.
Reviewed by Tanya Louise, Editor
I can never remember seeing The Sound of Music all the way through until last night’s performance by The Nottingham Operatic Society, which is definitely not one to fall asleep to.
The 1965 Academy Award winning film adaptation has been on TV countless times, usually at Christmas and I tend to fall asleep in a food induced coma around the time she disappears back off to the Nunnery and wake up swathed in Quality Street wrappers as they escape from the Nazis.
We all know the well-known numbers, in fact you probably learnt some of them at School, I know I did, Do-Re-Mi, So Long Farewell and of course My Favorite Things, one of those songs that lifts the spirits and fills you with joy.
Abby Wells has the tough job of taking on the main character of Maria in this production, a role made famous by Julie Andrews in the film, so it’s natural to draw comparisons. There’s something almost cosy and autumnal about the image Maria creates for audiences as she reveals her favourite things to be “Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up in string,” thankfully Abby manages to embody all of those things in a naive, loveable way whilst giving the great Dame a run for her money in the voice stakes. The story follows our heroine Maria, a young woman on her way to becoming a nun, until she is sent to serve as governess to the seven von Trapp children. Through her love of joy, song, and playfulness, Maria breathes life back into the von Trapp home and eventually marries the widowed Captain von Trapp.
Captain Georg von Trapp himself is depicted as a hard-hearted man’s man but easily (and quickly I might add) falls for our Maria. Something Good, sung by Maria and Captain von Trapp early in Act 2, deviates from the original Broadway production, to include the number which was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the film. Played by Christopher Plummer in the film version, I never found the Captain the strongest character but Paul Johnson brings a likeablity to his portrayal and the audience begin to really see his strength as a leader yet also a vulnerability and realness as he stands with his family at the festival toward the end of the story.
Whilst all the Nuns deliver immaculate harmonies. Special mention must also go to Kate Taylor for her portrayal of The Mother Abbess. Closing the first act with the inspiring Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” her performance is captivating and strong.
All the von Trapp children give fantastic performances, but tiny Poppy Fawcett as Gretl steels every scene she is in, gaining audible awws from the audience with every single line.
I remember as a kid, my Mum watching the film on TV and if I wasn’t asleep, I was fidgety. Kids love the majority of the songs, but I could see some in the audience getting restless. Not a reflection of the production, more the running time with it being one of the more lengthy musicals you’ll see.
As this is at the end of the day, an amateur production, though you’d be forgiven for forgetting, the set design is fairly basic yet still works so beautifully that along with the incredible talent on stage, you don’t miss the scenery of the film. What hills I ask you? The set is transformed seamlessly from The Abbey into the von Trapp home.
Running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday – make sure you grab yourself a ticket to this timeless production which is guaranteed to become one of your favourite things.