Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Sugary it may be, but TSOM is a confection that never goes off

IF The Sound of Music could be defined as food then it would be a bowl of glacé cherries topped off with candyfloss.

IF The Sound of Music could be defined as food then it would be a bowl of glacé cherries topped off with candyfloss.

It’s a two-hour sugary confection almost completely at odds with the modern musical, but still it survives — no, it doesn’t merely survive, it flourishes more than half a century on from its Broadway premiere.

There is obviously a market for the sweetshop full of twee innocent songs fed to us at the Wycombe Swan this week — and judging by the standing ovation it received it won’t be ending any time soon.

It’s one of the most successful stage musicals ever produced and it’s even at odds with the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpieces which preceded it — like Oklahoma and Carousel.

By modern standards the book is simplistic almost beyond words and only a vehicle for the songs. But those songs grabbed the ears from the start and still they do.

This production is okay — not everything worked as well as it might on Wycombe’s first night.

But one thing certainly did — a bright shining star called Lucy O’Byrne, the runner-up in the 2015 series of

The Voice
on BBC One.

She played Maria to perfection with a terrific voice full of vocal and dynamic range, plenty of fluid movement and she’s a thoroughly believable actress.

The Von Trapp children were also drilled to a fault. They didn’t miss a beat with their complex routines and songs.

The sets are sumptuous, with the Von Trapp house as stately as it should be — including a winding staircase, lots of pillars and space to move.

The Abbey looks just like a chapel with grand columns and a faux stained glass wall.

This show is certainly a treat to watch.

But some things need attention: the Abbess has some showpiece songs which were spoiled for me by a quite violent vibrato which wavered by a good quarter tone on either side of the note. And poor Von Trapp himself might have been feeling under the weather: the acting performance was underpowered and the singing sometimes insecure.

To be honest, it seemed as if he had a throat problem on the night. It was a shame, because it was obvious that he has a very, very good voice indeed.

But none of that will matter to the audiences who will flock to this: they were itching to join in on Tuesday and missed no opportunity to clap along to the familiar tunes — although, would it be too much to ask that if they must do that, to do it in the correct tempo and on the beat?

Anyway, if this is your cup of sugar — and it is for lots of people — then you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Until Saturday.

Review: Mike Rowbottom

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