COME on, hands up: Who hasn’t spent a Sunday afternoon in front of the box watching Julie Andrews gallivant over the Austrian hills?
Those sweeping iconic film shots and soaring notes which open The Sound Of Music are etched in so many people’s minds that it takes a very brave group of people to tackle them on stage.
And that’s just what Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company is; inspired by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV efforts, open auditions were held to find the Von Trapp children and their new governess,
renegade nun Maria.
That was director Richard Sanderson’s first great decision, casting Jessica Balderstone as the spirited nanny.
At just 17-years-old, Jessica’s voice has a maturity well beyond her years and she more than faced up to the legacy of Julie Andrews, getting the tone of the varied songs right every time. I’m
almost scared at how good her voice could be once fully matured.
Her rapport with the Tiddlywinks team of children was so very natural, but perhaps her lack of years shows in some of the most dramatic moments which is something that will, no doubt, come more
easily with time.
Maria’s guide and mentor the Mother Abbess saw Angela Schofield in fine voice too - with a very confident a cappella opening, and a superior rendition of Climb Ev’ry Mountain - while demonstrating
a great deal of warmth toward her young charge.
While John Preston was also on song with the vocals, he lacked the stature to make a convincing Captain and I struggled to be swept along with Maria’s changing feelings towards him.
Heading up the oh-so-adorable and talented Tiddlywinks, was Sophie Lord as eldest daughter Liesl, finding her feet in life and love.
Previously seen in lead roles, she balanced her skills well as a supporting actress - no mean feat when your on-stage step mum is several years your junior.
She kept the team in order and her clear voice helped the younger performers shine too. Simon Jackson was also on form as Rolf, turning colder as Nazism takes hold.
Malcolm Gent made a super Max, getting the showman just right. With such well-known characters, it can be difficult to watch different interpretations, and Rosemary Osborne as Elsa was not cold or
flashy enough for me.
When every song is a hit, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but Do-Re-Mi and The Lonely Goatherd were excellent.
I wasn’t sure about the use of, what sounded like, recorded vocals to boost the nuns’ numbers though, especially as the ‘live’ sound was pretty good on its own.
Richard’s direction was slick and kept the action moving on a very attractive set, although it sometimes looked a little sparse for a grand villa.
Overall, another super production from the Hippodrome team, showcasing some fantastic talents for the future.