Sound of Music Live on ITV

The Sound of Music is one of my top five musicals. The score is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best, underpinning a universal story set in an idyllic location. Much of my appreciation of the musical comes, of course, from the film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. How would ITV’s live studio-bound production of the stage show fare?

From the start, director Coky Giedroyc (The Hour and Sherlock, amongst others) demonstrated a finely polished product. Split across two studios separated by a car park, the TV sets made the production look theatrical. The audience-eye view had a filmic quality to the end product making the transition between abbey and Von Trapp household seamless.

At the same time, there was a charming sense that we were stepping back in time, back into a TV age when most dramas were studio bound. Watching it, it seemed incredible that something performed and broadcast live could seem so polished. Costume and hair changes were breathtakingly swift too, making what we saw on screen a stunningly demonstration of perfectly executed logistics. A benchmark for live TV drama.

A cherry-picked cast saw musical theatre troopers like Maria Friedman (Mother Superior) and Julian Ovendon (Captain Von Trapp) join forces with Kara Tointon (Maria). Friedman may have sometimes lacked the power needed in the top register of Climb Every Mountain, but her characterisation was faultless.

Kara Tointon worked hard to produce a tonal quality from her voice that was different from the most famous Maria of all Julie Andrews, managing to achieve both vulnerability and warmth to her charactisation making her duet with Ovendon (Something Good) the tear-jerker I’ve always found it to be in the film.

None of the adult performers played their parts too big (surely a risk with theatrical performers singing in a TV studio), Ovendon in particular played a far more attractive Captain than Christopher Plummer did in the film. Special mention goes to the kids in the show whose ensemble numbers, in particular a really inventive Lonely Goatherd, were polished, precise and full of warmth. No hint of Stage School wannabees here at all. Very nice work.

The show cracked on at a fair old pace leading me to wonder whether the film in comparison is, although beautiful, a little bloated in places. This television production had a lot to live up to because of that very comparison, which made the stunning achievement all the more impressive, one I hope ITV (or indeed, other broadcasters) will look to repeat with other shows in the future.

Watch Sound of Music Live via ITV Hub until 19 January 2016

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