The Sound of Music - Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan

The Sound of Music at Chichester Festival Theatre – Reviews

A reviews round-up for Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music at Chichester Festival Theatre.

The classic musical is directed by Adam Penford, and stars Gina Beck (South Pacific) as Maria, Edward Harrison (A Christmas Carol, Skellig) as Captain von Trapp, Janis Kelly (Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna) as Mother Abbess, Ako Mitchell (Caroline, Or Change, The Color Purple) as Max Detweiler, and Emma Williams (Half A Sixpence, Love Story) as Elsa Schraeder.

Other cast include Elliott Baker-Costello, Wendy Carr, Lauren Chia, Lauren Conroy (as Liesl), Wendy Ferguson, Hana Ichijo, William Ilkley, Rebekah Lowings, Liam Marcellino, Dylan Mason (as Rolf), Julia J Nagle, Minal Patel, Matt Pettifor, Rebecca Ridout, Tony Stansfield, Annabelle Williams and Penelope Woodman; and the roles of the von Trapp children will be shared by Jesamine-Bleu Gibbs, Barnaby Halliwell, Audrey Kattan, Arrabella McDermott, Gabriel Payne, Mia Raggio, Erin Rushidi, Maya Sewrey, Vishal Soni, Dylan Trigger, Felicity Walton and Sasha Watson-Lobo.

The creative team of this new production includes direction by Adam Penford, Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse (Piaf, The Madness of George III), design by Robert Jones (Murder on the Orient Express, The Unfriend, Oklahoma!), choreography by Lizzi Gee, musical supervision by Gareth Valentine, musical direction by Matt Samer, original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett, orchestral adaptation by Larry Blank and Mark Cumberland, lighting design by Johanna Town, sound design by Paul Groothuis, video design by Hayley Egan, casting by Natalie Gallacher CDG for Pippa Ailion Casting, and children’s casting by Verity Naughton CDG.

The Sound of Music is playing at Chichester Festival Theatre to 3 September 2023.

Read reviews from the Times, Observer, Guardian, Telegraph and more.

The Sunday Times

"Clear-voiced Gina Beck is perfect as Maria"

"... the first half swells to a tremendous climax with Climb Every Mountain, Janis Kelly’s Mother Abbess warbling away like a turbo-charged goose. She had the audience in sobbing cheers."

"Yet the child actors do their stuff admirably and from the moment that Beck hits the title song’s big notes, Adam Penford’s production sweeps you forth in its sentimental grip. Edward Harrison’s von Trapp could be more dashing and given that the Nazis were such racists, this is a show where colour-blind casting becomes a nonsensical hindrance. Good nonetheless triumphs and we can trundle home after a satisfying blub."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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i News

"Proves the musical is as indestructible as the Alps"

"Gina Beck’s Maria has a voice that is as clear and pure as fresh Alpine air and she’s bundles of fun too"

"Writing about this work can sometimes seem to a critic as pointless a task as reviewing the Alps themselves: it’s essentially indestructible, predominantly beautiful and the many peaks are dazzling. Yet Adam Penford’s production, although appealing, doesn’t attain full power until a rich and ominous final scene when the Von Trapp family are giving their final concert performance at the Salzburg Festival."

"Gina Beck’s Maria has a voice that is as clear and pure as fresh Alpine air and she’s bundles of fun too"

"Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s uninspiring book is showing its age now and the danger is that the spoken sections become mere downtime to be idled away while we await the next undisputed classic song."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Guardian

"Climbs ev’ry mountain, ticks ev’ry box"

"Gina Beck is radiant as Maria in this immaculate and impish production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical"

"Chichester has set quite a record for staging West End-quality musicals in recent times. This immaculate production is no exception. Director Adam Penford does not aim for any reinvention of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s final musical collaboration but creates a polished gem that glories in its faithfulness."

"... still a syrupy love story and relentlessly smiley narrative about overcoming adversity. But there is an earnestness to it all here that really does make for feelgood theatre."

"Beck has a lovely wide-eyed radiance and the same haircut as Julie Andrews in the 1965 film, and a sometimes uncanny resemblance. She carries all her songs commandingly"

"Yet, gritty reality still sneaks into the story and this production brings an eerie quality to its final scenes"

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Telegraph

"Restorative proof that a musical doesn’t have to be reimagined to be brilliant"

"Adam Penford’s production at the Chichester Festival Theatre is achingly lovely to listen to – and Gina Beck is a delight as Maria"

"Adam Penford’s production is, in the first instance, achingly lovely to listen to. Fears that the barn-like auditorium might swallow the sound are immediately banished. Designer Robert Jones cannily incorporates ecclesiastical (and cloistered) architectural features within a mountainous backdrop that makes up in magnificence what it lacks in verdancy – the structure helping to ensure that not a syllable dissipates."

"... Beck emulates everything we loved in Andrews’s incarnation, not least the innocent vivacity, without seeming a carbon-copy. To sing that well and smile that bountifully without incurring jaw-ache is no mean feat."

"Here is that rare thing, the un-reimagined musical. Given the climate, it’s thoroughly restorative."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Stage

"Songs are the star”"

"Sincere, solid revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic"

"... a brilliantly solid version of the old favourite, anchored by uniformly strong vocal performances and putting its emphasis firmly on – and why not? – the sound of music."

"Maria is a role that will always be overshadowed by Julie Andrews, but Gina Beck is more than up to the challenge. Returning to Chichester after impressing as Nellie in its South Pacific in 2021, she has only a dash of Andrews – the same crisp diction, but less prim and more excitable – and her earnestness and joy give the production some convincing emotional heft."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Times

" I have confidence in this decorous show"

"When the swastikas appear on banners for the all-important scene at the music festival, we still experience a frisson of fear and dread. And those SS men standing guard in the aisles are suitably malevolent. Otherwise, Adam Penford’s revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein evergreen is decorous and proficient, an accomplished touring production that hits all the matinee buttons, rather than a West End hit in waiting."

"... in these uncertain times there’s certainly a place for a musical, set in a much more turbulent period, that serves a banquet of unabashedly sunny numbers."

"It’s the singing that impresses most of all. Beck wins us over from the moment she embarks on the title song."

"Penford’s direction remains stolid, particularly in a first act, which really needs an injection of pace and energy. It doesn’t help, either, that Robert Jones’s marbled set, dominated by a craggy backdrop, looks less than distinguished."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Observer

"The hills are alive again"

"... if you were pining to be re-immersed in the 1965 Julie Andrews film, with its mountain heights and delicious, bordering-on-absurd sense of nature as a free-for-all, you may feel that this nostalgia-fest, respectfully directed by Adam Penfold, is missing something."

"As Maria, Gina Beck is all you could ask for: sweetness and light, paddling about barefoot, approaching her prayers with appetite. It suddenly occurred to me, Maria would make a tremendous ADHD heroine."

"The Sound of Music is a multi-tiered escape: Maria flees the abbey, Von Trapp overcomes his nastiness, the children – all charmingly played – cut loose from paternal oppression and everyone, in the sober denouement, escapes the Nazis by toiling up the mountains to freedom. And we, for an hour or three escape, agreeably, alongside them."

Kate Kellaway, The Observer
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📷 Main photo: The Sound of Music - Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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