The Sound of Music @ the Hippodrome: Review

18 Nov

Last night the Hippodrome was ‘alive with the sound of music’ as Connie Fisher et al took to the stage in their curtained attire to entertain an audience of all ages, with what is probably the world’s favourite musical.

The show was brilliant, and Fisher pitch perfect, if a little irritating at times, in her exaggerated clumsiness with swinging that guitar case around her head and grinning from ear to ear. Expectations were, of course, sky-high. All of us there were huge Sound of Music fans, and unable to stop ourselves from mentally comparing each stage scene to its equivalent film scene. I feel that the film compares favourably, but then who has ever preferred a screen adaptation to a beloved book?

The sets were fantastic, especially those at the Abbey, and I often felt that if I looked behind me, instead of peering into the faces of other enthralled audience-members, I would instead see the Alps looming large into the distance. For this very reason, I ignored a nagging desire to turn my head, and the view in front was certainly far more entertaining.

Michael Praed, as the Captain was handsome, though I thought, a little old with grey hair that belied the more youthful black tresses of film favourite Christopher Plummer (that is of course excluding the real-life Captain Von Trapp). He was, however charming, and exemplified that literary phrase of ‘the softening of features’ upon the realisation that Fraulein Maria has brought music back into his house.

Unfortunately sparks between Fisher and Praed were only noticeable in their absence, perhaps due to the relatively few scenes between the two prior to the Captain’s return with the Baroness. It is understandable that the show’s writers did not wish to match the films 174 minute length, though I am confident that most of the audience – myself included – would have been perfectly happy to enjoy a lengthy scene-by-scene recreation of the film classic.

The greatest moments of the show were – as in the film – when Maria sang with the children. ‘Do-Re-Mi’ was a particular highlight, and the children were brilliant; Gretl (Claudia Hall) was perfectly cute, Liesl (Claire Fishended) suitably haughty (at first) and Brigitta (Eleanor Shaw) displayed just the right amount of precociousness. I was not impressed with the liberal song-swapping that saw ‘My Favourite Things’ displaced by ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ during the thunderstorm, but could just about forgive the added songs that deservedly gave Max (Martin Callaghan) and Baroness Von Schraeder (Jacinta Mulcahy), additional stage time.

Marilyn Hill Smith, as the Mother Abbess drew an intake of breath from just about every member of the audience as she reached the dizzying heights of ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’s climax, with not a note out of place. Had glass been permitted in the auditorium, I’ve no doubt that the Hippodrome would have had more than one health and safety suit on their hands.

I have concluded that it is nigh impossible for a stage show to outdo a great film original, but given those limits, The Sound of Music certainly matched expectations.


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