At the heart of this production is Lucy O’Byrne’s pitch-perfect performance as sweet, dorky Maria.
At the heart of this production is Lucy O’Byrne’s pitch-perfect performance as sweet, dorky Maria. Her excellent voice is well worthy of the title role but the warmth and humour she brings to the performance marks her out as something very special. She is supported by a consistently great cast. Neil McDermott is suitably troubled and noble as Captain Von Trapp, Megan Llewellyn is a strong moral anchor in her role as Mother Abbess, and Katie Shearman steals all her scenes as gawky, impetuous Liesl. But really every member of the cast gives a blinding performance. Even the children are consistently charming and never annoying.
The attention to detail is worthy of particular note. Gary McCann’s sets are exceptionally elegant, and feel more like a full West End production than a touring show. He creates the mountains of Austria, the halls of an abbey and the grand house of the von Trapps with a richness of detail and atmosphere that is a real pleasure to be a part of. The moment in act two when the set design is used to make one of the play’s few overt political statements is an extremely powerful one. Amanda Ozdonmez’ costumes show the same level of devotion and attention to detail, even down to ensuring that, for narratively very important reasons, Maria’s act two dress doesn’t really fit.
This production also feels very timely. It is set in 1938, the year before the Second World War started, when Nazism was at the height of its popularity, and there are certainly echoes from that time that resonate with our own. You’ll probably remember The Sound of Music for its happy songs about hills and favourite things, but it has something else to offer us: a quiet subplot about taking a moral stand even against seemingly impossible odds. Captain von Trapp’s friends urge him to tow the line and fly the Nazi flag, to keep his head below the parapet. The show leaves us in no doubt about the virtue of a person who refuses to compromise with tyranny. At a time when we are once again seeing a rise of far right ideology, this musical sends a clear message that just because there seems to be “no way to stop it”, that’s no reason not to try.