Review: The Sound of Music at The Palace Theatre

Pic Pamela Raith Photography
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When I was growing up, I always avoided The Sound of Music on TV. It always sounded a bit too sickly sweet for me. I knew that, like a bus, I could just wait for the next one as it always seemed to be on at Christmas.

When I finally caught it about 18 years ago, I loved it and realised what I had been missing.

Past stage adaptations have sought to solve the problem of how to top Julie Andrews by casting Connie Fisher (chosen by the public and judges, X Factor style, in the BBC show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?) and Verity Rushworth, who proved to audiences there was more to her than just Emmerdale.

Here, Maria is played by Lucy O’Byrne, a former runner-up on the hit TV talent show, The Voice. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is stunt casting. Lucy has learnt her musical theatre stripes and has starred as Fantine in Les Miserables in the West End and a production of The Sound of Music which played at The Lowry last year.

Pic Pamela Raith Photography

The tale of young tomboy Maria Rainer trying to find her way in the world, via a convent (in which she is considered slightly unconventional) and her new role as a governess looking after the seven children of Captain von Trapp, works for a modern audience because at heart it is about fitting in. True love conquers all.

There are elements that feel dated. Like The King and I, it is best to ignore the gender politics and allow yourself to be swept along by the majestic music and marvellous melodies in this sweet natured and warm hearted production.

It is so damn likeable that, on the night I attended, when the Nazis appeared on stage and threatened the von Trapp family, you could hear members of the audience hissing at them.

But this is far from a pantomime. It leaves you feeling teary-eyed without simply slavishly repeating scenes you love from the film.

Lucy O’Byrne does not put a foot wrong as Maria and, despite being saddled with a hideous wig, manages to encapsulate the spirit of a young girl who wants to bring happiness to everyone she meets.

Pic Pamela Raith Photography

She sings beautifully and her enunciation is so spot-on that you can hear every single word. And, believe me, she means them all

Neil McDermott plays the Captain as a grieving man who speaks through hushed tones. His body language highlights how trapped he is. And, like Lucy, he sings from the heart.

Megan Llewellyn (Mother Abbess) blows the roof off during her rendition of Climb Ev’ry Mountain. It really is quite special and leaves the audience humming the tune into the interval.

The von Trapp children, led by the brilliant Katie Shearman as the eldest, Liesl, melt your heart, especially in So Long, Farewell and Edelweiss.  They are so memorable and evergreen that you are taken back to a simpler time.

The Nazis loom large and must be reduced to Darth Vader-style villains otherwise you either end up with something unintentionally hilarious or too dark for a show such as this.

Martin Connor’s production is beautifully framed by Gary McGann’s multi-layered set design and, even though the mountains are a painted backdrop, it does not stop you wanting to climb ev’ry single one of them, singing the tunes as you step onto your bus or tram, wishing you were sixteen going on seventeen again.

Oxford Road is alive with the Sound of Music and I still have the earworms to prove it.

Palace Theatre until Saturday 17 March
Box Office: 0844 871 3019

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