Confession: I’ve never seen the film The Sound of Music. Appalling, I know: the lady sitting next to me when I saw this new touring stage production in Wimbledon couldn’t believe it either. This boded well for the show, since I would have nothing to compare it to; but it was so good that I am sure I would have loved it even with an acclaimed film as a point of comparison. Certainly everyone around me – most of whom would, I am sure, have been familiar with the movie – cheered loudly in appreciation at the end.
Central to the show is the cheerful and optimistic novice nun Maria Rainer, played here by Danielle Hope. Hope is perfect for the part: friendly, appealing, full of personality and with a gorgeous singing voice. The scene in which Maria bursts in front of the audience singing “The Sound of Music” has been much copied and parodied over the years, but performed by Hope it feels completely fresh, stirring and powerful. My only slight criticism is that her speech is a little over-enunciated, however in this case it only serves to add to Maria’s charm.
Hope is aided by a capable cast: Jan Hartley as the kind-hearted Mother Superior, whose rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is soaring and beautiful, and Stephen Houghton as Captain Von Trapp, the ex-naval man whose children Maria is sent to look after and with whom she falls in love. The seven Von Trapp children deserve praise too, working brilliantly together as a team and displaying their own different personalities.
The story, which sees would-be nun Maria sent away from her Austrian convent as a governess to decide if a nun’s reclusive life is really for her (hint: it’s not), only to fall in love with the father of the children she cares for and, with her new family, cope with the growing Nazi threat, is richer and more layered than many musicals, and still resonates with audiences today. Memorable songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein decorate the piece like jewels in the beautiful Austrian setting. Even though I’d never seen the film, I was familiar with many of the songs.
Despite being a touring production, I thought the set was fairly impressive, showcasing the lavishness of the Von Trapps’ home, the beauty of the convent and the grandeur of the mountains. The orchestra sounded pretty amazing, too.
Whether you’re a fan of the movie, or new to the story, The Sound of Music is a must see – a fantastic production that’s memorable, powerful and moving.