Review: The Sound of Music, Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music is solidly good, especially in performances, but lacks thrills

“I know I will hear what I’ve heard before”

In an age of frequent reinvention of classic musicals, it is almost a surprise to see a straight-up production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. That said, Chichester Festival Theatre knows its audience well and so you imagine the suggestion of any Oklahoma!-ish shenanigans would most likely have been politely declined. The result then is studied faithfulness and that comes with cons as well as pros.

Gina Beck is pitch-perfect casting as Maria, a genuine lyric soprano talent whose musical interpretations are a constant delight, alongside the sweetest of natures for the indefatigable heroine. Her earnestness is reflected throughout the cast, all committed and not a weak link among them – opera star Janis Kelly’s luminous Mother Superior, Edward Harrison’s gruffly slow-melting Captain, Emma Williams and Ako Mitchell as a delightful Max and Elsa.

It sounds great under Max Samer’s musical direction and the raft of absolute classic songs can’t help but warm the cockles. But ultimately, Adam Penfold’s production does little more than warming. Nostalgia and excitement may not be the most natural of bed-fellows but there’s little here that ignites into musical theatre perfection in the way that it did at the Open Air Theatre a decade ago.

Some of that may lie in design restrictions per location – Regent’s Park alfresco was always going to be hard to beat in the cavernous Festival Theatre but Robert Jones’ design retreats a little too far into the old-fashioned to really stir the soul. Perhaps I’m just a little too jaded but the standards for musical theatre at Chichester are so high that this is one mountain I don’t think they’ve quite climbed.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Sound of Music is booking at Chichester Festival Theatre until 3rd September

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