Saturday 10 January 2015

The Sound of Music

Curve, Leicester
30th December, 2014

One of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most popular musicals gets a glorious outing at Curve to say ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye’ to director Paul Kerryson, who’s been artistic director of Leicester’s main theatres for over 20 years.

From Broadway hit to Bank Holiday standard, The Sound of Music may be sweet but its background of impending war is as dark as the Austrian hills are a luscious green. For those who don’t know the story, it sees peppy, joyous wannabe nun Maria (beautifully played by Laura Pitt-Pulford) asked to leave the abbey as her behaviour is unsuitable and she is in the habit of singing too much (yes, that was a habit pun). She joins the strictly-raised Von Trapp children, and after a gay old time and falling in love with the Captain, has to escape the country with her new family to flee from the Nazis. It’s entertaining, if perhaps too syrupy for some. But it is successful in its triumphing of freedom of expression over the repressing forces of war, near-military family routines and the restrictions of an abbey.

Paul Kerryson’s fine production fills Curve’s vast stage to extraordinary effect. It’s the biggest stage outside London apparently and Al Parkinson’s design is effective: the mountain at the back evokes considerable awe, the religious imagery conveys the forces and atmosphere of the abbey, and the Von Trapp house is cleverly used. Michael French has now pulled out of the production due to personal reasons but his understudy Mark Inscoe was impressive as was Susannah Van den Berg as the understudy Mother Abbess. The whole cast though excel. Some of the dialogue scenes and lesser-known songs occasionally slow down the pace but this is highly enjoyable.

And, once more, there is considerable praise for Curve: artistically and aesthetically, especially the latter, this regional theatre impresses from the moment you walk up to the front door. Incoming AD Nikolai Foster has big boots to fill but I’m sure he’ll deliver.

It may be kitsch, but it has superb performances and sets and some great songs, and as a Christmas treat with the family in a packed theatre, kitsch is no bad thing.

The Sound of Music runs at Curve, Leicester until 17th January, 2015.