The Sound of Music

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III
Sunderland Empire and touring

Connie Fisher as Maria

There can’t be many people who have not seen the classic film version of The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. For that reason I feel no need to set the scene or delve into plot. I have seen it countless times and can quite confidently say I know it word for word. And therein lies the problem. I would rather not start on a negative as I cannot deny that I enjoyed this production, on tour following its West End success and headlined by the people’s choice Maria - Connie Fisher - winner of the BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? However, as this particular adaptation stays so true to the much-loved film it is almost impossible not to compare. Added to this is Connie Fisher’s uncanny resemblance both physically and vocally to Julie Andrews (which of course is not a bad thing). And how on earth can you recreate the epic and breathtaking landscape of mountainous Austria on stage? Well, you just can’t.

Poised for a spectacular opening, Connie did not disappoint with her crystal clear rendition of ‘The Sound of Music’, but there was simply no room for great runs down hills or an embracement of beautiful surroundings because she was stood on a big brown plastic thing, which unfortunately made another appearance at a similarly pivotal part of the show - the end. I am relieved to say that the rest of the set was stunning throughout the production, from the enchanting walls of the Abbey to the lavish grandeur of the von Trapp’s family mansion.

Aside from a couple of new songs, the show stayed pretty much in line with the film in look and sound. The von Trapp children delighted and the nuns in particular impressed. The Mother Abbess (played by Margaret Preece) set hairs on end with her awesome rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’, winning me over just in time for the interval. Martin Callaghan was excellent as the selfish but lovable ‘Uncle’ Max Detweiler (Martin Callaghan). But I’m afraid the exonerated Navy Captain von Trapp (Michael Praed) just didn’t float my boat. My opinion may be slightly clouded by the enormous crush I had on Christopher Plumber as a child but the relationship between the Captain and Maria was simply not convincing. Aside from an unstartling voice there was an awkwardness to his portrayal and a real lack of command, which I do feel is essential to the role, and because the stern front was not evident enough, it also meant that it couldn‘t melt away as he supposedly fell head over heels for Maria.

I certainly would not discourage people from seeing the show (although no doubt it is near to, if not already sold out). Its unforgettable and near perfect score is beautifully recreated and Connie Fisher really is a delight to watch.

David Chadderton reviewed this production at the Palace, Manchester

Reviewer: Emily Taylor

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