The Sound of Music triumphs at Wolverhampton Grand

The hills were alive last night, as The Sound of Music celebrated a tremendous opening night at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. The classic, some might say ultimate, Rogers and Hammerstein musical shows no signs of losing its evergreen popularity, with a full house in attendance to watch the remarkable story of the Von Trapp family singers, and their escape from Nazi occupied Austria through the power of song. Although liberties have been taken with their story, the power of the telling of the tale, and the wonderful soaring songs means that the audience is totally swept away by the charm offensive. The Sound of Music is just beautiful, it is as simple as that.

soundofmusic-sq

Much credit must be given to the perfect cast. Lucy O’Byrne is a lovely Maria, giving the lead character all the spirit and personality the role requires, with the sweetest, crystal clear singing voice that does bring Julie Andrews to mind. She has a wonderful chemistry with the children, and also with her leading man. Andrew Lancel plays the brooding, damaged Captain Von Trapp, a role that can often seem like a thankless role, a straight man surrounded by captivating singing children and nuns, but in Lancel’s careful hands we have a charismatic turn that delivers the most emotional moment, his voice cracking with pure heartbreak during the exquisite Edelweiss.

57308ff3e611f-the-sound-of-music-uk-tour-lucy-obyrne-as-maria-credit-mark-yeoman-l-m

The children are just lovely. So often The Sound of Music is characterised as being the most saccherine of Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, but the children in this revival are wonderful – funny, charming and so sweet. In particular, Anne Holland is superb as the oldest girl Liesl, perfect as a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, finding she may not need a governess, but she definitely needs a friend. Her duet with Rolf (Kane Verrall) on ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’ is one of the highlights of the first act, youthful charm personified.

The Nuns are just brilliant, with the Mother Abbess (Jan Hartley) just stunning, especially when performing the incredible ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, and the set is almost another member of the cast, with amazing transformations that allow you to believe you are in a Cathedral, or a beautiful Austrian chateau.

The Sound of Music is a thing of beauty, a show that shouldn’t be missed.

The Sound of Music

Wednesday 5th – Saturday 8th October

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Click here for ticket information.

King Charles lll reigns supreme at the Birmingham Rep

If Shakespeare was alive in the 21st century, and was thinking of expanding his history plays, he would have come up with King Charles lll, which is currently playing at the Birmingham Rep. Billed as a future history play, this play has all those Shakespearean elements, a central character who loves a good sollilique, ghostly spectres and a cunning, manipulative royal Duchess to rival Lady Macbeth. King Charles lll is a powerful piece of theatre where the lines are blurred between good and bad and right and wrong. It is frankly unmissable.

800x600.fitdown

Veteran actor Robert Powell takes the lead as the new King Charles lll, finally ascending to the throne, and a role he has been in waiting for all his life. He needs to be a king with influence, no mere figurehead, but he is almost immediately thwarted when he tries to change and influence a new bill dedicated to restricting the power of the press. Charles is troubled by the bill which he believes is censorship in the extreme, but the Prime Minister, played with passion and conviction by Tim Treloar, states that the bill is already agreed – Charles just needs to sign. This sets the stage for  a battle royal of which there can be only one outcome.

Robert Powell is frankly amazing. His portrayal of Charles moves the character away from the caricature that it could easily have been, and instead instills the ‘King’ with a sense of pathos. You genuinely feel that this is a man of principle – however misplaced. When he says the key line “Without my voice and spirit, I am dust” you cannot fail to be moved, and as the voice and spirit is diminished, Powell exudes exhaustion and despair as he searches his historical archives for answers.

CharlesIII_040915_photoRichardHubertSmith-4639

Photograph Richard Hubert Smith

CharlesIII photo Richard Hubert Smith-

CharlesIII photo Richard Hubert Smith-

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, with the beautiful Jennifer Bryden a standout as Kate. Charming and friendly on her initial appearance, she becomes more ambitious, manipulative and cunning as the play goes on. Jennifer has the Kate mannerisms to a tee – the hair twisting is almost uncanny, and she exudes a regal charm that belies the steely determination that lies beneath the glamorous exterior.

CharlesIII photo Richard Hubert Smith-

CharlesIII photo Richard Hubert Smith

King Charles lll is a fascinating ‘what if’ of events of the near future and is highly recommended, whether you’re a monarchist, republican or frankly lie in the couldn’t care less catagory. Catch it before it moves to Broadway.

King Charles III

By Mike Bartlett

The HOUSE at The REP

4 to 19 September 2015

Click here for ticket information.