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Review: The Sound of Music at Sunderland Empire

Nuns Vs Nazis

The Sound of Music
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 25th June 2016

The Sound of Music continues to be a popular musical and hence the Sunderland Empire was packed on opening night. Thanks to the classic film, the Rodgers and Hammerstein story and songs are both well known and loved.

The story is based upon the 1949 book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Von Trapp. Whilst the stage version is simplified, the audience are still exposed to the rollercoaster of emotions that came with raising a family as Germany was about to invade Austria in the 1930s.

In this production the story begins at the abbey as Sister Berthe (Kate Scott), Sister Margaretta (ZoĆ« Ann Bown) and Sister Sophia (Tammy Davies) are discussing how successful the new intake of postulants has been with the Mother Abbess (Jan Hartley).   Whilst most have made the grade and are ready to take their vows, there is the thorny issue of carefree Maria (Lucy O’Byrne). They decide that they should give her some experience of the outside world before going to the next stage. This involves looking after the 7 children of the widowed Captain von Trapp (Andrew Lancel).

These children have been brought up on a strict diet of education and exercise by marching. The whole house can be summoned by whistle. Maria sets about changing the routine and reintroducing music into their lives. The Captain is looking to getting married to Frau Schraeder (Lucy Van Gasse) and friend Max Detweiler (Duncan Smith) warns on the changes to the world situation thanks to Hitler.

What makes this show a success are the memorable classics and the quality of the delivery.  The roles of the 7 children are vital. The eldest Liesel (Annie Holland) kept the wonderfully talented group in check. They ability to sing was a real treat. Each of the 6 younger children’s roles are played by 3 children on rotation. On press night we had the wonderful Zach Loizou as Friedrich, Elsa McKenna as Louisa, Zachary Pile as Kurt, Ruby Stokes as Brigitta, Jessie Popkiewicz-Smith as Marta and Alana Willis as Gretl. They didn’t put a foot wrong as they performed their routines set by choreographer Bill Deamer. It is difficult not to be charmed by the collective talent.

The adults also had chances to show off their vocal talents. Lucy O’Bryrne was popular with the audience as Maria.  Andrew Lancel had a lovely tone to his voice and did a much better version of Edelweiss than the film.  A real treat was Jan Hartley as the  Mother Abbess who was comfortable with Maria, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and accompanying Lucy on My Favourite Things.

The music was supported by an 11 piece live band, under musical director Tim Whiting, that did a great job throughout the show.

Designer Gary McCann’s set was able to quickly transform between the abbey, the house and the final concert. This helped director Martin Connor keep the action going.

The only niggle with the show was the sound in the first act wasn’t loud enough to drown out the rattling crisp packets or the occasional cough. Some sung lines were also lost in the mix. However in the second act someone had found the volume switch and the problems went away.

The Sound of Music is a great family show. This production allows for the natural humour to come out. The singing is suitably inspirational and hopefully it will encourage the younger members of the audience to sing. 

Great story telling and delightful singing combine to make The Sound of Music a show that continues to please another generation.

Photos: Mark Yeoman

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Bill Kenwright presents The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II     
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by ‘The Trapp Family Singers’ by Maria Augusta Trapp.
Presented by special arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe

Tickets on sale now and are available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* or online at*
*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings

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