It’s not every day you get to have your lunchtime coffee chatting with Captain von Trapp. But today I did just that. Better known for his role as DI Neil Manson in The Bill and villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street, Andrew Lancel is now Captain von Trapp in the show-stopping musical The Sound of Music. And it’s on way to Derry’s Millennium Forum this February.
No stranger to Derry, but this will be his first time on the Derry stage, Andrew Lancel is very looking forward to the arrival of The Sound of Music to the city. “I’ve been to the Forum”, he told me, “but I’ve never performed”. That is all about to change this February.
Bill Kenwright’s production of one of the greatest family musicals of all time The Sound of Music returns to the Millennium Forum in 2020. This musical masterpiecetells the true story of the world-famous Trapp family, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their thrilling escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich at the start of the Second World War. The hit show arrives at the Millennium Forum on Tues 4th Feb for a week-long run.
Playing the role of Maria in this spectacular production will be Emilie Fleming. Emilie became a household name when she was a finalist in BBC One’s Over the Rainbow with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Her musical theatre credits include the West End’s 20th Anniversary production of Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre.
Andrew Lancel will reprise his role as Captain von Trapp. Andrew is best known as super-villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street, a role that earned him a ‘Villain of the Year’ award at the British Soap Awards. He also played DI Neil Manson in the long-running ITV television series The Bill. His numerous stage credits include Bill Kenwright’s touring productions of The Small Hand and Twelve Angry Men. Andrew starred in The Man Who Made The Beatles in Liverpool and London, and most recently appeared on stage in the UK tour of The Lady Vanishes.
Welsh soprano Megan Llewellyn will play the role of Mother Abbess and will be joined by Howard Samuels (Max),Michael Anderson (Rolf), Nicole Farrar (Liesl), Alex Evans (Herr Zeller) Zoe Ann Brown (Sister Margaretta), Georgina Hagen (Sister Berthe), Katie Shearman (Sister Sophia), Sophie Christine (Ursula), Olivia Alexander (Baroness Elberfeld), Jon de Ville (Franz), Wendy-Lee Purdy (Frau Schmidt), Paul Lavers (Admiral von Schreiber), Sam Tithecott (Baron Elberfeld) and Jack Churms (Swing).
Producer Bill Kenwright said “The music and narrative of The Sound of Music are timeless. It’s a beautiful story about family and hope. The score transcends generations and the songs are known and loved by everyone.”
Currently in Dublin the show is making waves with people of all ages. Andrew said,”We’re having kids of all ages and Grannies in the front row. We are being so welcomed in Dublin and we can’t wait to bring it to Derry.” I don’t doubt there’ll be kids of all ages and indeed Grannies of all ages here too.
I asked Andrew why this musical is still so popular? Shakespeare was once described as ‘being not of an age but for all time.’ Is The Sound of Music the same? “It is” he assures me. “This is a story of hope and of love. In a shifting world, there is always hope. This is a show that just stays with you.”
Having watched the movie as a child (many years ago), I return to it again and again. It is for that very reason that I love it so much…hope…in a very shifting world we all need hope. Theatre gives us that. But more importantly shows like The Sound of Music give us hope. Hope that life does work out. Hope that love conquers all. Hope that we can survive. Hope that life is worth living.
We live in a time of such uncertainty. Especially in this contemporary world of ‘Brexit’ here in Northern Ireland, we all need hope. Captain von Trapp and the cast of this musical will give us all Hope in the coming weeks.
Having such prominent roles on TV, just how different is the experience of musical theatre I ask Andrew Lancel? “TV and screens are ever changing . Theatre is different – it never changes. How you watch it remains the same. You watch what unfolds in front of you. Theatre is about the part you play. It’s instant. It gets an instant reaction. The audience is there. It’s hugely rewarding.”
Andrew and I talk about the importance of family. In a world where family is ever changing, how does The Sound of Music still resonate with family? “It’s about a family on stage but it’s also about a family off stage. The cast become family. We have 18 children who play three sets of children. Last year when I did my last show on the run I was doing, half of those children came to that final show. That’s family.” It’s even more family orientated as Andrew told me today that, “tonight I’m on stage in musical theatre in Dublin and my 12 year old son is on stage in London doing musical theatre. That’s family, and it’s also magical.” This show really does showcase the importance of family and the familial love that really does make life worth living.
With so many big ‘musicals’ currently on the London stage and coming to Derry, what makes The Sound of Music so special? “It’s the original classic” Andrew tells me. “Most people would be happy to hear just one of the songs in this show. But there’s so many songs in this and everyone loves them all. It’s a classic in every way. It stays with you and you never forget it.”
It’s been described as ‘heavenly’; described as ‘a real joy’ and ‘brilliant’. It’s sounds like the show not to miss for 2020.
This wonderfully lavish staging of the classic musical has delighted audiences and critics alike. Produced by Bill Kenwright, it is directed by Martin Connor and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Bill Deamer, with musical direction by Jeremy Wootton.
This North West Culture Gal is very excited for opening night on Tuesday 4th February.
The Sound of Music performs at the Millennium Forum from Tues 4th to Sat 8th February. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.