Review – The Sound of Music

Wednesday 29 November 2006

With all the hype surrounding the West End Whingers’ visit to The Sound of Music, it was perhaps inevitable that the paparazzi finally caught up with them last night at the London Palladium. So here at last is a long-awaited picture of the whingers, snapped as they stepped from their limousine.

West End Whingers snapped at The Sound of Music

Anyway, to the show. Without giving too much of the plot away, The Sound of Music revolves around an Austrian rookie nun who gets suspended from the convent for singing too much and is sent to look after the children of a rich military widower just as the country is about to be annexed by Germans.

And do you know what, it’s really not half bad? Once you get used to the fact that it’s not the film and that Connie Fisher isn’t Julie Andrews, it’s pretty good actually. The principals are all fine, the sets are pretty impressive and the songs – of course – are faultless. Although do be prepared for the reintroduction of a couple of Max/Baroness numbers wisely excised from the film version.

But it’s during numbers such as Do-Re-Me that you realise just how much effort went into the film’s set-pieces, and although you wouldn’t really expect them to be able to reproduce them on the stage – bicycles being what they are – you do miss the lushness of the film. Even so, Do-Re-Me is not really half as terrible as this promotional clip makes it look (and note the “hands on head” homage to Julie Andrews).

Particularly impressive are the children. You take for granted the performances of the children in the film; they do, after all, have the luxury of endless takes to get it right, but to have children as young as five singing, speaking and dancing live on the stage is another kettle of fish. The cast we saw (there are three separate casts for the younger six -and four Gretls) were startlingly good.

There are some good set-pieces too. For the scene in which the Von Trapp singers participate at the Salzburg festival as a smokescreen to obfuscate their flight from the Nazis, the theatre is briefly transformed into the festival itself with the help of a few Nazi banners which descend to good effect.What’s missing is the moment when the audience joins in with Edelweiss to create the feeling that the Austrian spirit remains uncrushed. Andrew was particularly miffed, as he was convinced there would be the opportunity to sing along at some point, and it seemed churlish of the producers not to offer it here. As it was, he was forced to remain silently seated, perhaps slightly overdressed in his botanically precise Edelweiss outfit, the result of many months of industrious needlework.

The show also boasts the most convincing Nazis seen on the West End stage all year (c.f. our reviews of Bent and Cabaret), some terrific sets (we applauded the silver birches), one of the season’s best hats (belonging to the Baroness Schraeder) and a role model for all stage housekeepers – Nicola Sloane as Frau Schmidt.

If we had to whinge about it (and we do), our reservations would be:

  • Lesley Garrett (CBE) may be able to sing but if she’s not going to do it every night, she might as well act while she’s on. And an Austrian nun with a Doncaster accent?
  • Rolf isn’t nearly Aryan enough
  • Why does the London Palladium insist on squeezing 2,300 people into its barn of an auditorium through a space as tight as a nun’s vows? Because that’s where the gift shop is, that’s why.

Ticket tip

  • West End Whingers emotionally blackmailed eight of their dearest acquaintances into joining them in order to take advantage of the group booking discount which secured them best seats in the stalls for £30 instead of £55.

4 Responses to “Review – The Sound of Music”

  1. Paul Says:

    Thanks for the tip… But did you really get eight people voluntarily to go there to see this show??

    Will have to catch it in the new year!

  2. andreworange Says:

    Who said they volunteered?

  3. Frank Thompson Says:

    Dear WEW

    I have just been told about you website from a mate of mine who work’s like me in theatre, I am the Childrens Director of The Sound of Music, and just wanted to thank you for you comments made regarding my Charges!
    Your comments regarding the different discipline between theatre and film is very true, as was thrilled to read the very positive review for our show, there is a huge amount of work goes in when working on a show that involves children usually three teams of which we have and would like to think that all three are as strong as each other,
    Thanks’ once again

  4. terry Says:

    Yes…I know it’s taken a while, but I finally made it to The Sound Of Music, in time to catch it before Connie leaves for…. who knows? (By the way…I have it on good authority that I needn’t have rushed! The show will be running to at least 2010, and there are other reality TV stars to join the show in the coming months. Some…very ‘odd’ choices!)

    In general, I do agree with most of your review…however…given the space and cash available for the set…I thought it was a mess, and not really thought out to well.

    I mean….what was that oversized, oval, lump of fibreglass slate doing? Apart from giving an interesting angle to Maria’s’ first appearance…it seemed to sere little purpose, other than getting in the way.

    It seems…just to make use of this expensive piece of scenery, a load of gravestones and a dead tree were stuck on it, while the Von Trapps hide underneath it. After a few Nazis have tromped over it carefully…so it didn’t shake to much, the tree is beamed up by aliens…IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!

    Enough said abut the slab.

    My other (main) complaint about the set is the lack of logic during the various outside scenes. I appreciate ‘artistic licence’, but this seemed to be a case of ‘we’ve got it, so not we have to use it!’

    There must have been 4 scenes set in the Von Trappenhaus gardens…using the same 2 exterior pieces of the building…1 stage left, the other stage right, but garden bits in the middle kept changing…for no apparent reason. I’m no architect…but how many times can there be open space between two bits of the same building?

    I’m probably not making myself clear…and it’s really only MY gripe…as no one else seemed bothered by it. So enough

    Other than that, I did enjoy the show (oh…the wedding. I assume it was a ‘shotgun’ wedding at the pace they went through it).

    Front of house staff also did the Palladium proud. Mainly Tom, who, once in the auditorium, offered us a choice of 6 seats, all better than the ones we booked!


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