Even on a damp Monday night, the Open Air venue provided a perfect backdrop, framing the single high-walled set, surrounded by a moat to paddle in. It serves both as the abbey (where postulant Maria can’t quite subdue the lively nature which suggests she really isn’t suited to becoming a fully-fledged nun) and as the opulent Austrian villa of the widowed naval Captain von Trapp, where she becomes tutor to his seven strictly disciplined children.
Packed full of familiar favourites – right from Maria’s eponymous first number to the final reprise of Mother Abbess Helen Hobson’s ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, and with a host of numbers in between to showcase the talents of the von Trapp brood – it’s an absolute joy marred only by the shadow of the fast-approaching Anschluss, the increasing threat of Nazi occupation.
Michael Xavier’s withdrawn, unbending von Trapp (towering head and shoulders above Charlotte Wakefield’s tiny, radiant Maria) melts with a new love, but remains politically steadfast as the stormtroopers make their presence felt, Michael Matus adds an extra touch of comedy as his freeloading impresario friend Max, and the children – led by Faye Brookes’ Liesl and (on the night I went) kept on the straight and narrow by Imogen Gurney’s perceptive twelve year old Brigitta – perform to perfection in this immensely pleasurable evening.
Open Air Theatre
Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4NR
Tube | Baker Street
£25+, Until 7th September
Photo: Johan Persson