Offering an uplifting start to the new year, Bill Kenwright presents a new tour of ‘The Sound of Music’. A perennially popular musical, the story hardly needs retelling. This production brings much of the original charm that has brought joy to audiences over the last 55 years, mixing original talent with a perfected creative formula.
Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the famous story follows Maria who goes from the cloistered walls of a nunnery to bring love and music to the von Trapp family. Set in Austria during the tense run up to the Second World War, Maria and the von Trapps must escape the Nazis. In terms of the main dramatic plot, the show goes quietly. The main villains do not emerge until the final quarter of the show. Even the love triangle tension between Maria, Captain von Trapp, and Elsa Shraeder is resolved with more of a whimper than a bang.
Headed by the able direction of Martin Connor, the creative team has changed little since the production last year. A highlight of the show remains the incredible design of Gary McCann. His stunning scenery bring depth to the production and makes it, above all else, very easy on the eyes. The scene is set with Alpine panoramic cloths, bringing the Swiss mountains to the Playhouse Stage. Sets, from the large stone abbey to the glorious mansion of the Von Trapp’s, are vividly brought to life on the stage.
Since it is hard to make a nunnery lively, the show starts slowly. Moments like this return throughout as the scenes lull, or songs find pause. The fledgling romance between Liesl, played by Annie Horn, and Rolf, played by Kane Verrall, is another casualty of this slowness. Both actors played and sang very well, but something lacked in the blocking and direction that left the characters with little solid to hang onto. However once the choreography takes over the performers come into their own.
Of course as a musical, it lives and dies by the songs, and there is no fault to be found in the hair raising performances of the whole cast. Musical Director David Steadman should be commended for bringing out the best in this very talented cast. A veteran performance from Mother Abbess, Jan Hartley, brought the first act to a close on an incredible high note. The songs are familiar but to hear them performed live brings a new colour to them. As the audience sang along to the second act overture there was a sense of the uplifting joy that only a musical can bring to the theatre.
Lynda O’Byrne stuns in the lead role. As a runner up in The Voice you would expect no less than the brilliant vocal performances that she delivers. Taking to the stage in her musical theatre debut with grace, she embodies youth in a show that brings together generations. A few minor elements detract from the piece as a whole. Gray O’Brien (Captain von Trapp) is clearly not as comfortable in his voice as the rest of the cast. His acting, on the other hand, was very strong. The relationship between him and O’Byrne is good romance at its best, but the tremble in his tenor hits a sour note in comparison to the melody around him. However, the von Trapp children perform far beyond what you might expect. They form a winning combination with O’Byrne’s tender Maria.
Altogether the show is a triumph of good spirited music to beat the watery winter blues. Running until Saturday the 9th at the Playhouse before moving on to tour the rest of the UK, it is the perfect show for all the family to attend.