The Sound of Music – Review – Leeds Grand
By Sandra Callard, July 2015
When it’s Rogers and Hammerstein you know it’s going to be good, and when it’s The Sound of Music, you know the story and every song.
The film, released in 1965 and starring Julie Andrews, has gone down in cinematic history as the fifth highest-grossing film in the world, and its legions of fans are as committed as ever. This new tour opened at the Grand Theatre in Leeds to a packed and appreciative house, and sticks to the tried and tested formula of nearly 60 years of stage performances.
The music stands alone as a superlative of its genre, but the show can still stand or fall on the performance of its cast. Maria is played by Danielle Hope, winner of television’s search for a Dorothy in the BBC’s Over the Rainbow. She has a beautiful voice with an impressive range, but lacks a little personality – and she wears a very suspect wig. She fell down at the beginning with a lacklustre performance of the blockbusting signature song, ‘The Sound of Music’. To her credit though, she did pick up with each subsequent song, and her ‘Lonely Goatherd’, a fast and complicated song, was outstanding.
Unfortunately, she also plays Julie Andrews rather than Maria Von Trapp. Her vowels are excruciating as she strains to sound exactly like Andrews, but why should she even try to? Only Andrews speaks like that and I’m pretty sure Maria Von Trapp didn’t.
The seven Von Trapp children are a perfect joy and bring a refreshing realism to their parts, which have sometimes tended to verge on saccharine caricature. Their voices are superb and they all have an appealing normality about them. Their father, Baron Von Trapp, is played by Steven Houghton, who delivers a stiff and unappealing performance. His vocals are poor. This weakness is very apparent when he duets with Maria in ‘Something Good’, and in his solo of ‘Edelweiss’.
For me the star of the show is the Mother Abbess, beautifully played by Jan Hartley. She has humour and common sense, alongside her religious beliefs. Her rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is spine-tingling and the best I have ever heard. It closes the first half and is, quite literally, a show-stopper.
This production cuts Maria’s song ‘I Have Confidence’, but includes two I have never heard of before, ‘How Can Love Survive’ and ‘No Way to Stop It’. These are given to Elsa, the Baron’s erstwhile girlfriend, played remarkably well by Sarah Soetaert, and Max, Von Trapp’s friend, played by Howard Samuels. They sing them well, but the songs themselves are quite unmemorable. They do, however, add to the story, showing the audience good, solid reasons why the Baron should not marry Elsa.
Gary McCann has produced some wonderful sets. They slide seamlessly from one location to another. The orchestra does great credit to the evergreen and well-loved songs. This is a good solid production, with the support cast flying high. Although there are some slight problems with the leads.
The songs still inspire. They still cause a tear to be shed now and again. The fact that is based, albeit loosely, on a true story, are all good reasons to see it.
images: Pamela Raith