Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Stalls are alive with the sound of cheers for classic musical

In-habit: a packed Opera House turned out for the St Agnes’s musical
In-habit: a packed Opera House turned out for the St Agnes’s musical

The Grand Opera House stage was alive with The Sound Of Music as St Agnes's Choral Society's take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic opened to a full house.

It's amazing to think the musical based on the story of the legendary von Trapp family is now more than 50 years old, but the tale remains as timely as ever, and — in the hands of St Agnes's — as entertaining.

The Cinderella story of Maria, the nun who proves too high-spirited for the habit, as she contends with religious reserve, social constraints and the Nazis in 1930s Austria, had the audience in thrall.

Despite clocking in at two and a half hours, the non-professional production never dragged, being powered along by a succession of iconic songs. It's safe to say many of the crowd will still be humming My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Me, Edelweiss or Climb Every Mountain by the time this review is published.

As with any staging of the musical, much success hinged on the casting of the seven von Trapp children.

St Agnes's Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl were a joy — pitch-perfect, unfeasibly cute and, all-importantly for the choreography, of uniformly descending heights.

The production's answers to Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were also a success.

St Agnes's Maria and Captain von Trapp had the crucial chemistry with the local-cast child actors.

The latter handled his character's transition from humourless disciplinarian to honourable father convincingly, while there was never a moment when you didn't want to give Maria a big hug. The large cast was filled out by a host of familiar faces, as well as several new ones, none of whom put a foot wrong.

This may have been an amateur production, but the effort and care that had gone into every aspect of St Agnes's Sound of Music — right down to the artfully symmetrical sets and the actors' plummy enunciation — made this an inspiring, affecting and energising evening out.

Certainly, the audience — some of whom looked like they might remember reading Maria Von Trapp's book when it came out, while others were younger even than little Gretl — deemed it fit for a standing ovation.

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