Review: The Sound Of Music, York Stage Musicals, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

THE hills are alive again with the sound of extremism, intolerance and anything but music. Perfect timing, then, for York Stage Musicals to mark the 60th anniversary of Rodgers and Hammerstein's first musical, set in Austria against the rising tide of Nazism.

Nik Briggs's York company is more associated with much newer works, but when a gap appeared in YSM's 2019 diary, he could not resist the lure of a classic musical, whose songwriting he described as "sensational".

York is almost ridiculously rich with musical talent, spread across myriad flourishing companies and societies, and amid a healthy rivalry, the bar keeps rising. So Briggs has pulled out all the stops for The Sound Of Music: from calling on Adam Tomlinson's experience as musical director, to enticing the fantastically gifted Alex Papachristou back to a York stage for the first time in eight years to play the flamboyant "political cockroach", Max Detweiler, parading all of his London training to go with a charisma that no-one can teach.

Briggs is particularly proud of the choral singing of his Nonnberg Abbey nuns that opens the show so beautifully. Twice more it hits the peaks with Climb Ev'ry Mountain, led by another YSM find, 21-year-old former choral scholar Rowan Kitchen, whose audition for Mother Abbess had knocked out Briggs and Tomlinson. Climb Ev'ry Mountain? Vault ev'ry mountain, more like; her voice is that spectacular!

Like Robert Readman at Pick Me Up Theatre, Briggs has built up a stock of high-quality principals. Joanne Theaker, naturally radiant with a pliable soprano suited to differing musical demands, is a more matronly Maria than the Julie Andrews template, but there can be nun better at bonding with the Von Trapp children. She is bursting with kindness, good humour and understanding, and her singing is full of the joys of spring.

Cal O'Connnell, with a hint of a Germanic accent, plays naval Captain Von Trapp with a warmth to his tenor and a manner that is transformed under Maria's glow from righteous austere authority to paternal, allied to his unbending bold political stance.

Carly Morton's Elsa Schraeder is all Viennese airs and graces; Louise Henry's Liesl and the So La Ti Do team of Von Trapp children are key to the show's success too, with Destiny Husar's little Gretl stealing more than one scene. As the Nazi claw spreads, so Jonny Holbek's sinister Herr Zeller and Charlie Kirkpatrick's naive delivery boy Rolf turn to its cause.

Tomlinson's musical forces rightly receive rapturous applause, much deserved too by Sophie Roberts and Dress Circle of York for their costumes designs, while the set's grand columns, steps and Toblerone mountain peak beyond work best for not trying to compete with the panoramic film. You should climb ev'ry mountain to secure a ticket.

Charles Hutchinson

scenes telr

the ie, so strong is the but one of the great joys of covering this scene

BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson is the musical director for the story of Maria, the Captain, his many children and the Nazi advance.