I outlined my love of Regent’s Park Open Air theatre in a previous post; this year their annual musical was The Sound of Music … I mean, how could one resist?
The film was a staple of my childhood, although I enjoyed the 2006 London revival and subsequent tour, this really blew them out of the water (… OK maybe not quite the film, but it was surprisingly close!).
The Open Air Theatre provides a stunningly simple experience, we always arrive in plenty of time to take in our surroundings, sit on the wall outside the auditorium, then take to our seats and watch our fellow theatregoers arrive. This time, we were sat in what was seemingly *family central*. With a wealth of child actors in the show, this was perhaps unsurprising but I did find certain audience members overt bragging and continual encouragement of their child mildly irritating.
Charlotte Wakefield portrayed a youthful, naive, exuberant Maria with at times striking vocal similarity to Julie Andrews! I enjoyed her performance as Wendla in the Original London company of Spring Awakening, but this was on a whole different level. There are a lot of great actresses in the world, but it is often easy to see past their put on exterior to the individual beneath; this was one of those rare occasions where, for that two and a bit hours, the actress really was her character. Phenomenal, I can’t wait to see what she does next.
The rest of the cast were by no means a disappointment. Michael Xavier played a convincing Captain, it was particularly nice to see a production involving a Captain who could actually sing! The children (including Isabelle Allen of Les Miserables fame)were impeccable; their individual characters shone through without fault. The children’s choreography provided a welcome fresh take on numbers such as ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and ‘The Lonely Goatherd’.
Regent’s park provided a near perfect setting for the plot, at times it felt as though we, the audience, were looking on from the garden of the Captain’s house. Indeed, at the climax of the show, as the family hid from the Nazi’s in the garden of the Abbey the tension seemed all too real. I enjoyed the use of the moat surrounding the stage, the children splashing in the water on return from one of Maria’s escapades; and the Captain and Maria dipping their feet in it during ‘Something Good’, were memorable directional highlights. The only thing I missed from prior productions was the vision of the family on top of the mountain as ‘Climb Every Mountain’ came to an end, instead we saw them simply elevate some stairs.
It goes without saying that The Sound of Music is exceptional, it’s poignant yet uplifting and has stood the test of time. This production got everything right, leading to a truly brilliant, memorable evening of theatre. The rest of the audience certainly agreed, the performance received the most spontaneous, universal ovation I have ever witnessed. It went on and on and on.