Tuesday, July 23

The Sound of Music – Liverpool Empire

Arriving at the bustling Empire theatre at Liverpool where rows of excited people were queuing to see the iconic story of a nun who becomes the mother of seven children, I was delighted to see that my favourite all time musical was still as popular as it was in the 60’s, when I went every weekend without fail, to see the film in my local cinema- ironically, here in Liverpool. So, for opening night to see the story brought to light by the BOST musicals company was, I knew, going to be a real treat.

From the start, with the ever changing backdrop – bringing us the convent, the mountains and the exterior and the interior of the grand house ( great work by the projection designed Julian Butler) we were magically transported through this journey of Maria’s self-discovery from the start with the nuns singing majestically in the Abbey (fantastic voices and harmonies by all nuns – amazing) and Maria (played with astonishing talent by Jennifer Swanepoel) running across the Austrian mountains to my forever favourite “The hills are alive”-  we were all smitten.

The  announcement at the start of the show – by the Captain von Trapp (played by the charismatic Tony Prince) denied us the opportunity to take photographs – which I understood – but he also forbade the audience to join in with the musical numbers – now that would be a big ask, and as the wonderful songs ran through the show I found this command very hard to obey.

And so, we enjoyed marvellous renditions of ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ and ‘My favourite things’ (moved from its original scene to in the Abbey) before Maria journeys to the grand Von Trapp mansion and meets the seven children and Captain Von Trapp himself. From the moment the very talented actors who played each of the children stood on stage – they stole the show, and so each is worthy of a mention – Liesl – Hannah Bailey, Friedrich – Harry Ruddock/George Johnson, Louisa – Summer McDonald, Kurt – Nayan Attwood, Brigitta – Siena Williams, Marta – Olivia Fitzpatrick and Gretl – Sophie Whelan, to see such astonishing talent and to acknowledge that these children are only aged 8-12 years old (young) – is an amazing achievement – as each were faultless in their singing and choreography. The scenes of ‘Do- Re-Mi’, ‘The lonely Goatherd’, ‘So long farewell’ ‘The sound of Music’ and ‘Edelweiss’ were masterpieces and made my heart sing.   

The introduction to the incorrigible Max – played wonderfully by Jonty Barnes and to the high socialite Elsa Schraeder- played with outstanding talent by Linzi Stefanov – brought humour and glamour to the stage. Linzi’s voice was incredible. And so, Marie becomes a governess to the Von Trapp family and whilst the captain is away, the children learn to love her and Marie, them. The epic scenes from the film unfold and I felt young again the days of my devotion to the story and songs re-ignitned within me. On returning home the captain is touched that music has returned to his life and his hardened heart melts and there is joy in his life once more.

From this joy the Captain and Maria start to fall in love, Maria realises she has to leave and returns to the sanctuary of the Nonnberg Abbey and the mother Abbess. In returning to the Abbey Maria becomes a recluse and in seeing this the Mother Abbess acknowledges that the Abbey is not the right place for Maria and persuades her to return to the love of the captain. In doing so, the Mother Abbess sings ‘The Hills are Alive’ and the voice this woman has (Gina Phillips) is so wonderful and powerful and very reminiscent of the original actress in the film – Peggy Wood. The audience were stunned into silence.

Maria returns to the Von Trapp family – only to find that her Captain is to be married to Elsa Schraeder – and so Maria is completely heartbroken. However, on seeing Maria and knowing that his future wife is committed to the upcoming German occupation, the captain soon realises that Maria is the one to be his future wife. The wedding scene at the Abbey was spectacular, as was the finale when the family escape across the mountains and the nuns close the play with their hauntingly beautiful harmonies.

The play is a masterpiece, and all connected to this production should be very proud. James Lacey-Kiggins as director and choreographer, Tricia Gaskell, as musical director, Chris Simmons, head of productions and all other designers and assistants – a grand job!

The show is on at the Empire Theatre for only two more nights. Friday 10th May, and Saturday 11th May (2.30pm/ 7.30pm) – don’t miss it!

Full price: £22.00 (All prices include booking fees).

A musical masterpiece! 

Reviewer: Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 9th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.