Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Sound Of Music - Review

Curve Theatre, Leicester


Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Directed by Paul Kerryson

Laura Pitt-Pulford and Michael French

The vespers bell sounds at Nonnberg Abbey and the Curve stage seems to fill with black habits. The vastness of Leicester’s huge performing space is filled well by designer Al Parkinson, as he convincingly evokes the echoing majesty of the Abbey alongside the splendour of the Von Trapp mansion and of course, a neatly created suggestion of those musically alive hills that surround the town.

We all know The Sound Of Music’s touching if corny story, but it is the show’s songs that are iconic. The challenge of this musical, more than most others, is to take armchair favourites and breathe new life into them.

In his swansong season Paul Kerryson has, for the most part, cast shrewdly. In the modest role of Max Detweiler, Mark Inscoe is a clipped and avuncular delight. Alongside him, Emma Clifford nails the frigid frustations of Elsa Schraeder perfectly, whilst Jimmy Johnston's nastily Nazi-sympathizing butler Franz is another modest gem. Moving up through the cast, Lucy Schaufer’s Mother Abbess is a revelation. Her act one closing number Climb Ev'ry Mountain being so inspirationally spine-tingling that one could almost be reaching for the crampons as she sings. Michael French is the erstwhile Captain Von Trapp. As his seven stage offspring serenade him French sheds a convincing tear, but his naval uniform sits a tad awkwardly on him and he has yet to hit his best in the role. No matter though – when Albert Square’s David Wicks sings Edelweiss, every mum in the audience will have moist cheeks.

As ever, Ben Atkinson’s musical direction of his ten piece orchestra is spot on, but The Sound Of Music will always be all about Maria...

Laura Pitt-Pulford’s portrayal of the errant postulant snatches Julie Andrew’s hallowed crown (or dirndl) and makes it her own. Pitt-Pulford gives the most relaxed yet polished interpretation of this legendary role with her pitch-perfect performance entrancing the audience from one song to the next. From her delivery of the title song sprawled across a hillside, through to her gorgeously convincing interaction with the Von Trapp brats (cutely played mind, well done kids) in Do Re Mi, every song is a treat. As an actress she is convincingly youthful yet wise, at all times displaying that most intriguing of emotions, a spunky humility. This leading role is so very well deserved by one of the most talented actresses of her generation that surely it cannot be long now before Pitt-Pulford leads a West End show. 

Notwithstanding a lack of racial diversity both on stage and in the audience (which surprises for a venue in the heart of as diverse a community as Leicester) Kerryson has again delivered some top-notch talent to the town that he’s called home for some time. There is excellence afoot here – and if you want a glimpse of a woman destined for musical theatre greatness, you won't see it more clearly than in the wondrous Laura Pitt-Pulford.


Runs until 17th January 2015

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