Review: The Sound of Music by Berwick Opera

Having watched the film so many times as a child – and a few more since – I didn’t think a local production could measure up.

By Diana Smith
Wednesday, 08 May, 2019, 09:36
The Sound of Music by Berwick Operatic Society.

But I was blown away by how well Berwick Opera captured the charm of my favourite musical when it brought The Sound of Music to The Maltings last week.

It helps if your leading lady can sing as well as Julie Andrews and, in Anna Emmins, the Society had struck gold.

Her voice was perfect, crisp and clear, as she expertly delivered each much-loved melody.

From the moment she burst into I Have Confidence, we were confident we were in for a treat.

She sang like Maria; she moved like Maria and she even looked like Maria. Perhaps she’d seen the film a few times too.

Jacqueline Budge, as the Mother Abbess, sent a shiver down my spine when she (twice) nailed the rousing climax of Climb Every Mountain. You just don’t expect that level of skill in an ‘amateur’ performance.

Don’t get me wrong; I have come to expect great things from director Lisa Summers. Her passion for musicals has resulted in some fantastic productions over the past few years and she and her equally enthusiastic team always dream big!

Some of the stars of the Opera’s junior group (last seen wowing us with Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat) took up their places in the two teams of Von-Trapp children. There were also some, notably the little Gretls, who were new to the stage – but will no doubt be entertaining us for many years to come.

Morgan Flannigan and Matty Forster, both already experienced performers, shared the role of Rolf, while Eilidh Campbell and Finna Hardy both played Liesl.

It is testament to the richness of talent in the youth wing that all four were equally capable; capturing their characters so effortlessly and singing with flair and confidence.

All of the children were a delight and coped brilliantly with technical harmonies and, at times, complex choreography.

Each team took part in three shows each – further proof that there is no shortage of young talent.

And I’m sure they never once complained about wearing white tights and lederhosen!

Also impressing with their harmonisation were the nuns led by Sisters Bertha, Margaretta and Sofia (Dilys Guthrie, Aurian Fleeson and Alison Fergie).

The chorus sounded truly authentic, transporting us to the Austrian mountains and lending a poignant vocal backdrop to the dramatic tale.

The role of Captain Von-Trapp is a challenge to any actor because he must seem so austere at first but also hint at a softer side, if we are to believe Maria could fall for him. Euan Duthie was up to the task, with his emotional performance of Edelweiss a highlight.

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When Gretl stepped in to help and he kissed her on her head, I was fighting back a tear.

Elegantly assuming the role of the rich baroness Elsa Schraeder, was Kim Schmid while Stuart Faed played Max Detweiler – the captain’s mischief-making friend.

The pair worked well together with her wry asides and his cheeky ripostes providing much of the comedy.

In support were Kathryn Curry as Frau Schmidt, the loyal housekeeper, and Jack McIver Pitt as butler Franz and a whole chorus of accomplished actors and singers taking on the roles of soldiers, party guests, nuns and over appreciative concert contestants.

Of course, for an ambitious production such as this, a lot of the hard work goes on behind the scenes.

The costumes and set were impressive and the stage crew worked slickly to move between scenes.

It is useful too, when you’re dealing with one of the world’s best-loved musicals, to have an accomplished live band and all the musicians, led by Mike Hardy, did a fantastic job.

By the time the cast returned for a reprise of Climb Every Mountain, most of the audience were also singing along.

The performers received a standing ovation and I heard nothing but praise as I left the auditorium. I have to agree this was an exceptional show – congratulations to all involved.

CAST LIST

Maria Rainer – Anna Emmins; Captain von Trapp – Euan Duthie; Mother Abbess – Jacqueline Budge; Sister Berthe – Dilys Guthrie; Sister Margaretta – Aurian Fleeson; Sister Sofia – Alison Fergie; Elsa Schraeder – Kim Schmid; Max Detweiler – Stuart Faed; Rolof Gruber – Matty Forster & Morgan Flannigan; Franz – Jack McIver Pitt; Frau Schmidt – Kathryn Curry; Baron Elberfeld – Mark Fleeson; Herr Zeller – Fergus Rae; Admiral von Schreiber – Kenny Combe.

The von Trapp children: Liesl – Eilidh Campbell & Finna Hardy; Friedrich: Corey Learmonth & Kai Jardine; Louisa – Alice Heald & Eloise Duthie; Kurt – Jamie Lawson & Josepth Harwood; Brigitta – Eloise Lambourn-Batley & Evie Ryan; Marta – Mhairi McLeman & Grace Gillie; Gretl – Isla Cornish & Annebelle Keech.

Nuns: Kelis Bloomfield, Sheila Bradford, Wendy Cameron, Jo Curtis, Samantha Hutton, Ann Inglis, Jackie Kaines-Lang, Kirsty McLeod, June O’Mara, Lucia O’Mara, Margaret Rowland, Val Sanders, Sandra Storey, Olive Summers, Hannah Turner.

Production team: Director and choreographer – Lisa Summers; assistant director – Laura Catterall; musical director – Mike Hardy; rehearsal pianists – Dot Mutch & Margaret Rowland.

Berwick Operatic Society has announced its next two productions.

They will perform Fame Jr from November 6 to 9 and Sister Act from April 22 to 25, 2020.