Review of The Sound of Music by Viva Theatre in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on Thursday 28th February 2013

We’ve all seen the film of ‘The Sound of Music’- possibly a number of times, so presenting this as a live local production in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, renowned for its delayed responses, was a mammoth task. However, Director and Producer, Dan Schumann and his team managed to pull it off with great success and the show I saw tonight was fantastic. It had all the ingredients of a good production and even though I knew what to expect of the story, the way it was presented and the talent of the performers made the show just as entertaining as the first time I saw it.

Maria (played by Shellie Baigent) was delightful. Her sparkling demeanour, her beautiful singing and dancing and her fine acting filled the role magnificently. Mother Abbess (Anthea Kenna) was even better than the one in the film. This Abbess had a mature voice just right for the part and her acting and stage presence made her one of the most credible performers. Other strong characters included the plastic-smiling Baroness Elsa (Jenny Surridge), Baron Von Trapp’s children Liesl (Ellie Bovingdon), Brigitta (Tarryn Richardson),Louisa (Holly Marsden), Marta (Zara Minns), Frederick (Ben Howard), Kurt (Lawrence Whitworth) and Gretl  (Lola Macdonald). Rolf (Duncan Earlham) and Herr Zeller (Charlie Ellerton) were also highly commendable.  David Tickner made a charismatic Max, Jon Bridgeman a fine Captain Von Trapp, Naomi Porter an efficient Schmidt, Ben Clark an outstanding Franz and David Moat a believable Admiral. The nuns provided excellent moments of ecclesiastical worth and the subtle differences of character were particularly effective especially between Sister Margaretta (Hetti Wood),  Sister Berthe (Lesley Wood) and Sister Sophia (Emily Palmer).  Indeed there was not a single ‘awkward’ moment in this memorable production which was all the better for being positioned in the Lady Chapel with its distinctive windows in the background. The strong sounds and firm harmonies the nuns as a whole produced in their liturgical music added to the authenticity.

The singing, acting, dancing and choreography were all admirable. With minimal instruments Stephen Kenna and musicians Oselayo Ojuri (percussion) and Alan Grayer (Bass), the Lady Chapel was filled with appropriate accompaniment. Stephen’s musical expertise brought out an amazing variety of sounds from his single keyboard which became a chamber orchestra (even the authentic-sounding strings) or a church organ in full blast when required.

Yet again, Viva is to be congratulated for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.       

Rosemary Westwell

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