The Sound of Music | Chichester Festival Theatre | Review

The Sound of Music

Chichester Festival Theatre

Summer 2023

Casting that’s clever and exquisite lighting

Songs that are catchy, the Nazis need fighting.

Well-drilled young children and nuns who can sing

These are a few of my favourite things!

I was in The Sound of Music in 1981 in a school production. I played Rolf and even had a brief showmance with the girl who played Liesl in an art imitates life encounter. I’ve seen it over the years on at least 3 occasions and despite it not being one of my favourite musicals, this is by far and away the best production of it I have seen.

Austria, 1938. Free-spirited nun Maria is sent away from her abbey to become governess to the widowed Captain von Trapp’s seven children. She brings music and laughter back to his unfeeling household, but the future holds more joy and jeopardy than she ever dreamed possible. The Sound of Music was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s last and perhaps most treasured musical and this spellbinding production is one they would be proud of.

In the central role of Maria, Gina Beck, is simply stunning. Her flawless and effortless vocals are a wonder although was it really necessary to make her look so like Julie Andrews? Audiences don’t want a carbon copy performance and fortunately Beck adds a little extra playfulness together with an exuberance which contrasts beautifully with Edward Harrisons reserved and understated Captain von Trapp. His rich tone is a joy to listen to and the undercurrent of his feelings towards the impending invasion of his beloved country juxtaposed with his joy at hearing singing and laughter back in his home is skilfully handled. His rendition of Edelweiss at the Salzburg Festival is genuinely heartbreaking.

Elsewhere there is excellent support from Ako Mitchell as Max Detweiler, Emma Williams as Elsa Schraeder and in particular, opera singer Janis Kelly as the Mother Abbess whose soaring version of Climb Ev’ry Mountain is utterly superb. The smaller roles are also brilliantly cast with stand out performances from William Ilkley as Franz and Penelope Woodman as Frau Schmidt.

The Von Trapp children are played by two teams with only the excellent Lauren Conroy as Liesl appearing in every performance. On the night I saw the show, the yellow team of Gabriel Payne, Erin Rushidi, Barnaby Halliwell, Arrabella McDermott, Mia Raggio and Jesamine-Bleu Gibbs didn’t put a foot wrong and all credit to Director Adam Penford and Choreographer Lizzi Gee for creating an outstanding version of this much-loved musical.

It’s a faithful interpretation and no wheel has been re-invented along the way however this is a must-see show – a musical that you can sing along to before bearing witness to perhaps the most ultranationalistic, violent and ideologically pernicious regime the world has ever known.


Reviewer: Patric Kearns

Photo: Manuel Harlen