REVIEW: Sound of Music at Riverhead Theatre

I MAKE it no secret that, whilst I admire the work and expertise of Rodgers and Hammerstein, I am not particularly struck on The Sound Of Music.

I find the story relatively bland and the music overrated, yet I appreciate that it is considered to be one of the greatest musicals ever to exist. Of course, my own prejudices meant that the reviewing process was going to be rigorous and staying open-minded quite a challenge.

Perhaps the greatest shock for me so far this year is the fact that I actually enjoyed the show.

Genuinely. In fact, I would probably go as far as to say that it is one of the top musicals that I have seen on the Riverhead Theatre stage. So, what caused this sudden change of heart?

There is very little doubt that veteran director Sue Hamilton and her assistant, Margaret Blackmore, had a difficult task in casting such an iconic show.

Every character had to be spot on perfect for the show to be a success and it had to look believable; the children not only needed to be ideal height-wise but they needed to, understandably, be talented performers. Good news – they certainly are little stars, likely to blossom into the future of the stage.

It would be unfair to single out individuals for their performances with such an all-round talented and highly capable cast (not to mention the sheer length that this review would amount to!) but a special mention must go to the chorus of Nuns who offer a neck-hair-raising rendition of Preludium, followed by a note-perfect rendition of Maria to open the show and they continue with musically gorgeous interludes throughout. However, all cast members seem to be enjoying themselves and they gel remarkably well together, and this does so much in captivating the audience.

One aspect of any Louth Playgoers’ musical that never fails to shine is the live orchestra; in this instance a relatively small group of immensely skilled musicians with such natural musical chemistry, led with proficiency by Tony Blackmore. From subtle pizzicato strings to punchy bass notes; they are all magnificent on the ears.

All of the classic musical numbers are present and they sound nothing short of great. The Lonely Goatherd is the fun, upbeat number that it should be, No Way To Stop It has stunning harmonies and Climb Ev’ry Mountain is a powerful finish to both Act I and the end of the show.

As expected, the backstage teams have all worked very hard in order to produce spectacularly ambitious set pieces with smooth and efficient transitions, and the lighting, sound, costume and props assist in submerging the audience into the story.

The show is almost a complete sell-out already and therefore it really is a case of hurrying to grab those few last tickets in order to avoid missing the performance that changed my opinion. Get booked now, folks!

Rewview by Stuart Spendlow.