Book: By Howard Lindsay and Russel Grouse
Music and Lyrics: Rodgers and Hammerstein
Director: Elsie Kelly
Reviewer: Tim Stone
The Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust (BOST) have a long history of performing musicals in Liverpool and although considered an amateur production, the quality of show and standard of cast and backroom staff is nothing but professional.
A young nun ‘to be’, is sent to the house of a widowed Austrian naval hero where she is governess to his seven children; there she brings love, singing and fun into the house. This is during the Nazi growth in Germany whose army then marches into Austria and with the Captain’s refusal to bow to the new leaders of his beloved country the family are forced to escape into Switzerland.
There is a danger for productions of this musical to make them over sugared and too twee considering the material but BOST managed to get the right balance of moments of drama, of humour and all with fine singing to back it up.
Jessica Walters who played Maria was a triumph; not only does she have a fine singing voice but she also succeeded in a good acting performance and brought light and excitement into her rôle. The choir of nuns were a lovely touch whose scenes were not only visually splendid but excellent in tone as well. These were led by the superb Mother Abbess (Meryl Langford) whose stage presence and rendition of Climb Ev’ry Mountain moved and held the audience momentarily spellbound. The children as a collective performed exceptionally well, but special mention needs to go to Maisie Eccleston-Tuohy (Liesel) whose performance was not only mature, but took complete responsibility for her younger charges, while Sophia Lawton (Gretl) completely stole the show with cuteness and belligerence. There were a few weaker performances from smaller acting parts but it would be unfair to be over critical.
What was impressive was the simplicity; the production did not try to overstretch itself. The scenery (Scenic projects) were some of the best I’ve seen; while the costumes (Applause, Boyz, BOST) visually excellent. The unobtrusive music (Tricia Gaskell) supported wonderfully but fortunately did not dominate, while the Choreography (Charlotte Elverstone) was understated and highlighted that basic is best. Occasionally, there were sound issues with the microphones which did distract and hopefully that can be sorted for future nights.
It is a long production at three hours and even then at times it felt as if it were rushing through scenes a little too much, but overall it was an excellent tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein, with quality singing and steady acting. Just to watch little Gretl is worth a ticket of anyone’s money