The Sound of Music - Musical ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Tuesday, July 5, 2016 through till Saturday, July 9, 2016
Blackpool Opera House - Blackpool
Sandra Mangan | Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Let’s start this with a confession. As a musical, The Sound of Music has never been one of my favourite things. But when Downstage Centre calls, you put aside those qualms and sharpen the trusty reviewing pencil.
Nevertheless, I took my seat at the Opera House with a vague feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. The hairs were standing up on my arms as Jan Hartley hit those final notesLess than three hours later, I left the place with a veritable spring in my step and a song in my heart.
And what songs they are! I’ve never seen this show on stage before and have watched the movie version only once, but those tunes are branded in my memory and came bubbling back to the surface as they were performed afresh. They had been shifted around somewhat here but that shuffle did nothing to damage the flow of a show that had the feet tapping from beginning to end.
Hillside to Abbey
What surprised me most about this production was the West End standard of both sets and performances – we even had real live musicians gracing the orchestra pit and although we couldn’t see them they gave a note-perfect performance too! A gorgeous, imaginatively conceived set moved from hillside to abbey, imposing hallway to cosy bedroom with aplomb, taking the audience on an epic journey.
I’ll admit the stars gave me cause for concern – a former soap actor and a talent show runner up? C’mon! Granted, I’d heard great things about Andrew Lancel in The Damned United, but could he sing? The answer is YES. OK, there may have been a wobbly note or two here and there, but his heartfelt rendition of Edelweiss more than made up for any little flaws and had me reaching for a tissue. Lucy O’Byrne might have only made runner-up in The Voice but she is top of the tree in this production. Her lovely voice and sparkling diction reminded me of Julie Andrews (no bad thing), but her sparky cheekiness gave Maria a new dimension and she had the audience in the palm of her hand from the off.
The children were just adorable and the scenes when they performed with O’Byrne were a total joy. Together, they created such a happy, carefree atmosphere – and the marked difference when the youngsters sang, alone, after Maria had inexplicably left them was testament to how accomplished this merry band of seven really is. Six of the children change from night to night but one constant is Annie Holland, who was a lovable Liesl and whose voice proved a pleasing counterpoint to O’Byrne’s. One of my highlights of the night was her scene with Kane Verrall (Rolf Gruber) in the iconic Sixteen Going on Seventeen, where this young pair showed off dancing skills that would put Strictly to shame!
Another towering moment (or perhaps that should be moments) was Jan Hartley’s performance of Climb Every Mountain, which brought the curtain down at the end of the first half and the house down at the end of the second half. The hairs were standing up on my arms as she hit those final notes – something that hasn’t happened since I witnessed Jane McDonald’s tour-de-force rendition of Memory in Cats at this same venue.
As the large, hugely talented cast took their bows, the audience was on their feet and cheering to the rafters – they’d witnessed something very special. As I write this, I’m still humming those songs. ‘Raindrops on roses and…..’
Photo of Andrew Lancel by Matt Martin
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