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BWW Reviews: THE SOUND OF MUSIC, New Wimbledon Theatre, October 12 2011

The Sound of Music is so embedded into our culture that it is perhaps better known as the idea of The Sound of Music than as the actual musical itself - fifty-two years into its life, it's a meta-musical.

Even though I have never seen the film, nor any of its many stage versions, I knew the songs, the characters and the plot as well as any of those "seen it every night for four years" ultra-fans who turn up as an "And finally..." item on the news from time to time.

So I took my seat grateful not just for what I was about to receive, but for all the parodies, the singalongs, the audiences who turn up dressed as nuns, Nazis and, memorably, in an all-over yellow PVC bodysuit (that was Ray by the way. You know Ray - a drop of golden sun) who have made The Sound of Music much more than an old standard.

But you have to leave all that behind, as, to be fair, Jeremy Sams does in his lavish version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic (at New Wimbledon Theatre until October and on tour). The plot of the novice nun despatched from the convent to act as a grieving widower's governess to his seven children, who goes on to marry the father and lead the impossibly goody-goody children from Nazi-occupied Austria to Swiss safety, is given due respect and a series of sets as impressive as any I have seen in a touring production. Everything looks as clean and fresh as the Alpine air of the hills through which the music so swellingly sounds.

Any residual cynicism one clings to in the face of such... such, well, such SoundofMusicness, disappears with Maria's first arms-out run across the meadow, and one simply settles in for the ride. What a ride too. Verity Rushworth sings well and charms the children as the governess they always wanted (though don't get too much Julie Andrews into your heads at this point, or you'll risk thoughts wandering towards Mary Poppins briefly and on to Dick Van Dyke!).

Michael Praed looks the part as the patriarch of his brood and is impressively anti-Nazi in his Austrian nationalism (giving more bite to "Edelweiss" than Vince Hill ever managed) though the sailor and the nun don't entirely convince as a couple - outside of combined hen and stag party nights, they seldom do.

Stealing the show, even from the excellent children, is Lesley Garrett, whose warmth as the Mother Abbess builds Maria's fragile confidence and whose "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is an awesome reminder of the difference between fine singers and opera singers.

So that's it - one of the great crowdpleasing musicals showing exactly why it's such a great crowdpleaser. If you've seen it before, you'll know exactly what to expect and this production will give you that and a whole lot more. If you haven't seen it before, well, maybe now is the time -it may just become one of your Favourite Things.            

 

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