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As a show you can’t go far wrong with The Sound of Music, however this version, although good in parts, fell down in some rather strange elements.  I have a lot of time for Chris Lavin’s directorial skills, (witness his recent triumph at the Rep), but felt that although this was a traditional production in a lot of aspects, the escapes from the traditional did not always work.

Firstly I must say that the set was very good, as it has to be for a venue like the Grove, it was nicely lit, and the sound was very good throughout.  The balance between stage and orchestra was very well-managed, meaning that we got the best from both.

There were a few scene changes that were curious to say the least, such as the disappearing hall table in the middle of an Scene, which didn’t sit well, and other times when scenery seemed to go off too quickly – I am very aware of the need to keep things moving, but it caused comment and amusement from the audience that it wasn’t correct.

Musically the show as good, Les Arnold had a really super orchestra, that brought out the nuances of the music, and made it almost seem as if we were hearing it for the first time The whole joy of the music was summed up in the final few notes after the cast had cleared the stage, the sound was full and sumptuous.  Mostly the cast achieved what was expected, but there were a few times when there were slow musical take ups, and I was a little disappointed in the Nun’s overall, they were late and rather straggled in with the Gaudeamus, but once it got going the sound was good.  I thought the alto line was stronger than the sopranos which is unusual.

I thought Alana McKenna was a lovely Maria – I liked the reflectiveness of her first number, the song of the title, but would have liked to see a little more joyousness as the song built.  However, as a portrayal it was one of the better ones I have seen, and Alana gave good contrasts between her dealings with the children and the adults, whilst showing us a clear and true vocal ability with nice expression.

The children are always the ‘aah’ factor and these were no exception.  I particularly liked Ellie Reay as Louisa, and Megan Wagstaff as Brigitta they both gave us very strong characters, with excellent expression.  The other Von Trapp children, Nathan Marshall as Freidrich, Alex Wheeler as Kurt, Emily Owen as Marta and Freya Baldock as Gretl, all gave us charming performances which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Amy Lane was a charming Liesl, she looked the part and interacted well with Rolf and the children, as well as adopting due respect for the more adult cast.

Cameron Hay gave another good performance as Rolf, however as a part it did not give him the opportunity to shine as he has done in other recent productions.  But it did show that he can dance and sing as well as act, and Cameron has fast become one of my favourite young performers.

I did not like the live puppet show during the Lonely Goatherd, it can be a charming interlude, but that made it rather grotesque, and I didn’t like it at all.  Much better to have left it to the children and Maria to create the charm of the music.

I wanted Simon Rollings as Captain Von Trapp to have a more military bearing, I am sure the thinking behind his rather country-style suits were that he was away from his ship and relaxing – but something a little more formal might have helped him to be more formal in his portrayal.  That said, I liked his relationship with Maria it was very telling, particularly in the Lendler.  A very tender moment in the whirl of the ballroom.

Barbara Morton was a gently authoritarian Mother Abbess, you could glimpse the steel behind the kindness, and Climb Every Mountain was, as always, a stirring end to Act One.

The three principal Nuns Sisters Berthe, Margaretta and Sophia were nicely played by Lucy O’Hare, Susie Condor and Joanna Smale respectively.  Susie was very bright and cheerful (despite having nearly lost her voice), and gave a lot of expression to the part.  The other two were more serious, giving the trio contrast.

I was however, very perturbed to see the Nuns and Mother Abbess doing a box step during Maria, it was not at all in keeping and I was not the only one to comment on it.  Keep it simple for the Nuns.

Susan Young was a very sophisticated and elegant Elsa – she suited the part well, despite two strange songs, which I always feel have strayed into the show from somewhere else – but I liked what she did with them.

Chris Lane was the erstwhile Max Detweiler, he showed his friendship with Georg and Elsa, whilst being able to get down to the children’s level and play with them too.  His slightly devious side in using Georg as a source of the better things of life, was good.  I just wanted a bit more energy in the part as a contrast to Georg.

Marc Rolfe created a very believable Herr Zeller – he had the right attitude and level of menace to make a first rate character.

Benn Jaggers and Rosemary O’Toole as Franz and Frau Schmidt got the essence of the butler and housekeeper, without over-egging it.

The other smaller parts were covered nicely.

The ballroom scene was nicely achieved, plenty of dance action, with people who actually looked as if they were having a good time, colourful and busy, however there were  couple of very unsuitable dresses, too fitted and out of period.  The men all looked debonair with excellent tail suits.

Other choreography was not always suitable, but as a first solo attempt by Julie it covered all the bases in being within the abilities of the cast, but it could have had a bit more diversity.

Costumes on the whole were colourful and mostly suitable, which gave the production a good look.

I love the show itself, and whilst this was a good version, it did not blow me away.  However I appreciate as always the hard work and commitment from both cast and crew that is needed to put on a production of this size and complexity.

Dunstable Amatuer Operatic Society

The Sound Of Music” review date: 19th Oct 12

Grove Theatre, Dunstable

Director:  Chris Lavin MD: Les Arnold Choreographer: Julie Foster


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