Every Mountain Climbed
Before the iconic movie version took the world by storm in 1965, “The Sound of Music” had already been taking the theatre world by storm since 1959, winning several Tony Awards in the process. Now, over sixty years later, “The Sound of Music” returns in a brand new production. Built on a rock solid foundation of spectacular set, superb story, strong performances, and even stronger singing, “The Sound of Music” kicks off Bord Gáis Energy Theatre’s 2020 programme with a bang. Delivering an impressive production to delight devotees and newbies alike. One featuring some of the most phenomenal singing you’re likely to hear in any musical this year.
Featuring music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, “The Sound of Music” follows life loving postulant, Maria, sent from her convent to serve as governess to the seven children of widower, Captain Von Trapp. Inspired by true events recounted in Maria’s memoirs, “The Trapp Family Singers,” the course of true love runs anything but smooth for the fun loving Maria as music, marriage, and family come to blossom during Hitler’s Anschluss of Austria in 1938.
From its opening strains, songs convey the beating heart at the centre of “The Sound of Music.” Which an almost minimalist dialogue succinctly serves, showing a wonderfully impressive economy. Musically, aficionados will notice interesting additions not included in the movie, as well as some other curious changes. Including the inclusion of Something Good, written for the movie to replace An Ordinary Couple from the stage show, and the curious omission of the adorable I Have Confidence, also written for the movie.
Under Martin Connor’s taut direction, precision and timing are always paramount. Steeped in retro charm and awash in Alpine azure, Gary McCann’s superb set sees layered frames become pictures that are sumptuous to look at. Almost as sumptuous as the singing, with the Von Trapp children singers displaying an embarrassment of vocal talent. If Howard Samuels as the scene stealing impresario Max, and Andrew Lancel as the patriarchal Captain Von Trapp have little singing to do, both do it superbly well. As does Fair City favourite Clelia Murphy as Baroness Elsa Schraeder, the Captain’s betrothed. It’s not just that Murphy musically acquits herself with aplomb in a field full of fantastic singers, it’s that she lights up the stage every time she’s on. And, along with an often campy Samuels, brings some wonderful comic lightness.
Purists for whom there can only ever be one Maria might find their convictions being shaken by a hugely impressive Emilie Fleming. In terms of timbre and tone, and phrasing and pitch, Fleming’s resonance often echoes the legendary Julie Andrews without ever being an easy imitation or a cheap impression. Instead, Fleming’s Maria is something truthful to both the movie and to the individuality of the singer herself, and proves utterly spellbinding. But Fleming can’t claim all the glory. Soprano Megan Llewellyn as Mother Abbess delivers a powerhouse rendition of Climb Every Mountain that brings the house down and the audience to their feet.
Over sixty years on and “The Sound of Music” proves itself to be a remarkably robust musical, even if its views on women haven’t dated well. Never more evident than during Sixteen Going On Seventeen, even if its adolescent charm manages to forgive it much of its now cringe worthy content. Other themes, like resisting the rise of fascism, have dated uncomfortably well. But there’s no point trying to resist this utterly charming classic. Sure, it suffers spouts of staged stiffness in places, with some scenes looking a little bit fake or forced. But these are rare exceptions to Martin’s rule of general excellence. Containing more than a few of your favourite things, “The Sound of Music” sees every mountain climbed to deliver a wonderfully entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable production.
“The Sound of Music” with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, presented by Bill Kenwright, runs at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until February 1st.
For more information, visit Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.