The Sound of Music

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II didn’t shirk from social issues within their musical theatre productions: racism (South Pacific), transient/absent fatherhood (Carousel) and here, with The Sound of Music, reactions to the rise of the Third Reich in Austria. Of course, these complicated social backdrops made fascinating studies into the nature of love; in this case, what happens when effervescent soon-to-be trainee nun stands up to, then falls in love with her boss, a strict sea captain. As ever with Rogers & Hammerstein, each song is a stand-alone capsule of consummate craft and emotion and tells part of the story. Warning: there will be tears.

The nuns should be dubbed The Sisters of Perpetual Rapture for their gorgeous harmonies, lead by Jan Hartley’s superb Mother Abbess.

It seems that today’s production equation of talent show contestant plus former TV Soap star is a winning formula, at least when it comes to pulling in the crowds. Lucy O’Byrne’s portrayal of Maria settled into itself comfortably enough without quite providing any centre-stage magic. Her vocal dexterity more than made up for this, though her over-annunciation within the songs was at times irritating. This may have been a directional thing as it was also the case for Kane Verrall’s Rolf Gruber. O’Byrne’s chemistry with Captain von Trapp (played with flatness in the singing department by a suitably gruff Gray O’Brien) was almost believable; the obvious age difference between O’Byrne and O’Brien made it awkward. In comparison, the sweet bond between Verrall’s eager Rolf and Annie Horn’s pure innocent Liesl was far more credible.

The nuns should be dubbed The Sisters of Perpetual Rapture for their gorgeous harmonies, lead by Jan Hartley’s superb Mother Abbess. There are very good reasons why the Playhouse doesn’t allow glasses into the auditorium: Hartley’s powerful soprano vocals soared through the theatre and did glass-shattering, holy justice to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”.

The von Trapp children’s polished performance – with their sweet, very moving singing and their whip-smart marching – was enchanting. No theatre school brats here; just accomplished mini-actors. Pippa Winslow’s Frau Schmidt was played with good grace, Isla Carter’s loyal maid, Elsa Schraeder and Jon de Ville’s pusillanimous butler Franz were solid support. Duncan Smith’s performance as social-climber Max Detweiler, with his lascivious greed at realising the value of the children’s talent, a la Simon Cowell, produced a far more chilling threat than the Nazis.

Gary McCann’s versatile design, awash with divine gothic and art deco glamour, combined with Nick Richings’s etherial lighting create a richly atmospheric set. While director Martin Connor brings nothing new to this production of the Sound of Music, what could be done? Set it in contemporary Ukraine? With something so well-loved in the psyche of the musical-going public, the grounding familiarity of this elegantly generous production brings some considerable relief in this fast-changing world.

Reviews by Sarah McIntosh

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

One of the greatest musicals of all time returns to the stage in a magnificent new production to enchant and enthral the young and the young at heart.

Based on Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography, this wonderfully lavish new staging of The Sound of Music tells the true story of the world-famous singing 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 WWll.

Lucy O'Byrne fresh from her success on BBC One’s The Voice, plays the title role of Maria. She became the competition’s runner up earlier this year, impressing the nation and chart topper will.i.am with her stunning vocal range. Award winning actor and TV heart-throb Gray O'Brien plays the dashing Captain von Trapp. With a career that has spanned over two decades, he is best loved for his memorable roles in Peak Practice, Casualty and, of course, Coronation Street.

The Sound of Music features some of the world’s most memorable songs, including “Edelweiss”, “My Favourite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, “So Long, Farewell” and of course, the title song, “The Sound of Music”.

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