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September 15 2019, Reviews The David Beach Competition

The Sound of Music

CUDOS

Crewkerne Town Hall

Crewkerne

Saturday 14thSeptember

The Sound of Music is, somewhat paradoxically, easy to overlook in the pantheon of musical theatre as it seems to have always been there; well- known and well-loved. Sitting in a full house audience at Crewkerne on Saturday afternoon however, I was reminded of what a truly great show it is:  Great story, great characters plus the great Rogers and Hammerstein music. Yes, it might be, in the words of Christopher Plummer (the film version’s Captain Von Trapp) ‘sentimental and gooey’ but I can’t help loving it, as do audiences across the years.

Director Dendy Harris took a reasonably conventional line in staging the show; simple but effective settings, combined with good lighting, a gobo or two and attractive costumes. The slick stage management we have come to expect from CUDOS making scene transitions smooth, silent and rapid, allowed the show to flow with good, well-managed pace. Dendy also brought, very subtly, a gentle modernisation to the piece: A young Maria, more in line with the age of the real Maria’s age of twenty-two, brought a fresh naturalness to the piece, as did the pleasing lack of the traditional vibrato in the Mother Superior’s singing. Small, but refreshing changes to the classic.

The biggest change for me, however, was the quality of the sound. I have had the pleasure of watching many, many shows from CUDOS in the Town Hall. Great, early productions (for me, not the society!) were often slightly marred by very poor sound quality. The hall has a fairly challenging acoustic and, particularly when using an orchestra, amplification is essential. It is very frustrating to watch a cast performing their socks off, enunciating hard and yet being unable to discern the clever lyrics or sparking dialogue. This production marked a sea change in quality and absolutely every word was crystal clear. I am unsure what the technical change has been, I can only assume it is the result of considerable investment but wow, what an improvement. Long may it last.

Musical Director Matt Rock led a well organised orchestra who supported the singing very well. He must have worked hard with the ensemble too as there were some lovely moments of choral harmony, particularly from the sisters. Individual singers delivered well too, natural tones were pleasing and even the less strong singers delivered with conviction. I did wonder if a couple of changes of key might have been made, particularly for Edelweiss, which felt a little too low for the performer to show off his voice to best advantage?

As ever in The Sound of Music, the children stole the show. Charming, confident and very well-rehearsed, Eleanor Brindley, Joshua Beaumont, Lillie Woodhead, Daisy Dexter, Christian Barry, Elouise Church and Sienna Isaacs as Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Brigitta, Kurt, Marta andGretl were a real pleasure to watch. Eleanor showed some real maturity too, in her performance, particularly during Sixteen Going on Seventeenwhen her eye contact with Jacob Edwards as Rolf was intense and very believable.

Principal performances were strong too: Jess Payne as Maria was a breath of fresh air, as Maria should be. Some super singing – I particularly enjoyed Lonely Goatherd, natural, believable acting and a charming engagement with the children, the nuns and The Captain making for a very watchable performance. Christopher Holman-Holmes looked just right as the stiff Captain Von Trapp, Tomas Lowe gave us Max Detweillerand Elly Driver quietly shone as Elsa Shraeder with superb singing, characterisation and presence. Judith Payne too, brought a gentle realism to the part of Mother Abbess, her love for Maria was touchingly portrayed.

The supporting cast all engaged with their roles and showed good focus too. This was a well-rounded production, having the feel of a real team effort. I thoroughly enjoyed being reminded of the quality of the show and being roundly entertained by CUDOS’ production of it.

Thanks for inviting me

Ian