The Sound of Music

Date 21st November 2012
Society Bath Light Operatic Group
Venue Theatre Royal Bath
Type of Production Musical
Director David Tucker
Musical Director Matthew Finch
Choreographer Jill Kelly

Report

Author: Graeme Savage

After last year’s foray into Disney territory, Bath Light Operatic Group returned to one of their staple productions – the fourth time they have presented The Sound of Music. As always with the most-loved musicals, there is a difficult decision to be made – present something too faithful to the original and be accused of lack of originality, or make radical changes which keep the show fresh but risk alienating the devoted followers. BLOG seem to have managed to comfortably occupy the middle ground with David Tucker’s safe and traditional production, which on Wednesday night’s showing seemed to be doing an excellent job of keeping the performers energised and the audience happily entertained.

The Sound of Music is more of an ensemble piece than it is often given credit for, but inevitably a strong spotlight lands on the actress who takes the role of Maria, and Rebecca Henderson shone throughout, with her lively yet controlled performance as the young apprentice nun who has to grow up quickly with familial and political responsibility. While she could possibly have been a little more skittish in the early scenes, her Maria developed a beautiful maturity in her blossoming relationship with Captain Von Trapp and a real maternal relationship with the Von Trapp children. Throughout the whole show, her clear, strong voice did full credit to the famous numbers. Conversely, Geoff White’s Captain Von Trapp was a little more humourous and less of a strict disciplinarian than usually portrayed, but this allowed us to see the charm which Maria falls for, and his chemistry with Rebecca was totally believable.

The Von Trapp children were excellent, with Hollie Roberts’ Gretel almost stealing the show, and Sophie Baxter as the eldest girl Liesl bonding well with Maria. The overall character of the family gradually coming together, building to the heart-breaking ending, was expertly put across by all of the performers. 

In the supporting roles, particular mention should be made of Rich Newman’s Max – again, a slightly more bumbling figure than is usually expected, but for me this made him more likeable; someone trying to keep everyone happy without totally understanding the consequences, rather than a scheming individual just looking out for himself. Sarah Phillips’ Mother Abbess had a very engaging warmth in her relationship with Maria – like Geoff’s Captain, there was a caring nature to her discipline, which is not always brought out in this character - and she lead the Act Two finale wonderfully. All the supporting actors were very clear in their diction and characters, and had clearly been well developed through rehearsals.

One of the highlights for me was the Nun’s Chorus in Act Two with confident voices and precise harmonies, and summed up Matthew Finch’s clear and unfussy control of both orchestra and singers throughout the show. With a show where virtually every song is so well known (and reprised so many times!) you need your Musical Director to be like a good referee – barely noticed and not out to make a name for himself! It is a slightly backhanded compliment, but I’m sure Matt will understand what I mean if I say that the orchestra and his direction was barely noticeable, as the balance and tempo were virtually faultless throughout.

The lighting was very subtle, with some strong moments – particularly the haunting lighting of the final concert, picking out the swastika flag, and the night-time scene for 16 going on 17 was lovely (although the moon being projected on top of the trees was something which unfortunately caught my eye, and I couldn’t not notice afterwards!) Overall, the set worked very well, and the scene changes were handled slickly. My only criticism of the set would be the village backdrop, which felt a little too much like pantomime compared to the more sombre nature of the other set pieces. This wasn’t helped by the rather over the top nature of the performances in these scenes too, particularly during I Have Confidence and The Lonely Goatherd – while I appreciate the need to occupy the ensemble, these particular numbers felt a little too over-the-top. I understand the intention, but the execution was, for me, a little too out of keeping with the rest of the show.

Overall, this was a good, solid production, and I must say that as something of a Sound-of-Music-phobe, I was impressed to have enjoyed it much more than I was anticipating! The only real disappointment was that it was a show that lacked a real ‘Wow’ moment (although the Canticle came very close), but with a fairly downbeat ending this is probably inherent in The Sound of Music. What was very clear is that this is a company which, taking the last couple of Theatre Royal Bath productions into account, is definitely moving in the right direction – there seemed to be a real company spirit evident in the performances on Wednesday, and the relatively new production team are clearly getting to grips with the demands of the Theatre Royal stage and facilities, and shows great promise for the future.