sun 26/05/2024

The Sound of Music, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

The Sound of Music, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

The Sound of Music, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Regent's Park is alive with The Sound of Music, and what a marvellous sound it is

Do-Re-Mi: There's no situation so grave here that you can't sing your way out of it

Over in Southwark you can currently find Rodgers and Hammerstein exploring the seamier side of life among the prostitutes and drop-outs of Pipe Dream, but in the woody amphitheatre of the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre it’s all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Nuns, Nazis and singing children are an unlikely recipe for the most wholesome of all family musicals, but against all odds this 1950s classic is still an irrepressible hit – get out of the way or prepare to be reduced to a giddy, ecstatic wreck by a production that will send you home singing.

Director Rachel Kavanaugh has no agenda to push, no revisionist opinion to offer here, contenting herself with crafting an affectionate and sincere revival. With the help of Peter McKintosh’s elegant set we move fluidly from cloister to ballroom, with the theatre’s grassy wings and mountainous raked seating also adding to the performing space. Costumes are a tasteful riot of sailor-suits and lederhosen, pastel prettiness set evocatively against the stern black and red of the Nazi flags.

In Charlotte Wakefield's Maria Regent’s Park have a winner

The music itself is a mash-up of film and stage versions, including film numbers “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good” but also reinstating “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It” to Max and Elsa from the original production. It’s a happy compromise, ensuring we get all the best songs, and cynical wit of the latter two numbers proves a healthy counterbalance to so much starry-eyed idealism.

But really it’s all about Maria, and in Charlotte Wakefield (pictured below right) Regent’s Park have a winner. Passionate to a fault, bursting with nervous energy and good intentions, she has her audience from her first notes, produced, lark-like, from the very top of the theatre. Terribly young and innocent, there’s an extra pathos to this Maria – barely bigger or older than the children in her care – and especially in conversation with Helen Hobson’s unusually youthful Abbess. She’s well-matched in Michael Xavier’s stiffly and beardedly Teutonic Captain, who unbends just enough to croon an "Edelweiss" to topple any number of totalitarian regimes.

The nuns do their thing with panache (a slightly underpowered “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” aside), but if anything their ensemble and tuning are outdone by the children. The first of three alternate sets of Von Trapp siblings dance, sing and charm their way past any suggestion of Goody Two-Shoes glibness, immaculately drilled as any Captain could wish. And the boys in particular show off some serious vocal skills, aided in ensembles by Faye Brookes’ enchanting Liesl.

It’s good to see the political side of things beefed up in the dialogue here, establishing Elsa (Caroline Keiff) and the Captain as ideological as well as emotional opposites. But it would have been nice to see a little more nuance from Keiff, who plays the Baroness as calculating rather than merely frivolous, fatally loading the dice even before we know what game we are playing.

Even on a damp and somewhat stormy night The Sound of Music is the sunniest of summer shows, continuing a long tradition of fantastic musical theatre at Regent’s Park. This is an old-fashioned piece that glows when polished up with a little old-fashioned vim and respect – a trip back into a sweeter, simpler time, where there’s almost no situation you can’t sing your way out of.

The Von Trapp siblings dance, sing and charm their way past any suggestion of Goody Two-Shoes glibness


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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