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Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Sound of Music" in London reviewed

We saw a preview of the new production of The Sound of Music in London a few days ago. And the word from the crowded auditorium? A triumph!

I did question the wisdom of Andrew Lloyd-Webber when I heard he was planning to stage this show, given the fanatical popularity of the film version. But the Sound of Music has always existed as a stage production, and as proof there are two extra songs. The Baroness gets to sing!

The crowd was at 90% on this preview night and highly excited and boisterous. Maria, played by Connie Fisher, the winner of the BBC show "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" received rapturous applause in welcome, as did opera diva Lesley Garrett.

The most satisfying thing about the production was the vocal and musical quality. Both Fisher and Garrett were superb, Fisher confounding me as I'd never really rated her voice on the TV show. She doesn't suffer in comparison to Julie Andrews. Garrett was superb in "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," the show stopper that closed Act 1. Looking around, I could see quite a few of the audience were wiping away tears. And that's the triumph of the show. The film is a real tear-jerker; why I have never really figured out, but fortunately so is this stage version. Without the genuine emotion it induces, the whole thing could be perceived as very schlmatzy.

Other highs were the imaginative scenery and staging; the over-the-top conducting and the children. Maria has an easier ride with the children than she does in the film. The only way we know they've been unpleasant to governesses in the past is the mention of one of them climbing up to Maria's bedroom from the garden with a toad in each hand.

The lows are Captain Von Trapp and the treatment of Lonely Goatherd. Von Trapp was played by an understudy, Christopher Dickins, and he was very wooden, although I suspect it's equally to do with the writing of the part than the actor's performance. There was no chemistry with him and Maria, and hard to see how the script even allows for that. She is convincing as Lloyd-Webber wanted in terms of "she climbs a tree, she scrapes a knee" but she seems like a very naive young girl and it's hard to imagine what the Captain saw in her.

Lonely Goatherd in the film is a puppet show. In the stage musical, it's a scene with Maria and the children in the garden with servants going about their business. I didn't think it quite worked; I kept waiting for the servants to join in. But John thought it was very good (he is less addicted to the film version).

As for Maria, Connie Fisher held her own which was challenging against Garrett. I'm not quite sure why Garrett gets to sing "My favourite things" in the first scene - it doesn't seem right for the Mother Abbess, but seems like a vehicle to give the established star more to do. Fisher was trying a little too hard, but she'll relax over time, and time is what she will have. This show will run and run!

Oh, a handy tip for dining if you're going to see this show at the Palladium: the Shakespeare's Arms, at the top of Carnaby Street, has upstairs dining and it was very good. Attentive and friendly service, real ales and good wine list. I had a stilton & wild mushroom tart followed by sausage and mash.

2 comments:

txdave said...

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Maybe some photos, more color, different fonts/format, see what I mean:

http://blogs-apart.blogspot.com

http://browniesforbreakfast.blogspot.com

thnks dave

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