The Sound of Music

Jan 5 2016 | By More

★★★★☆    No problems with this Maria

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 5 – Sat 9 Jan 2016
Review by Martin Gray

The Playhouse was alive with the sound of a singalong as the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical returned for a too-short run, staying all week until Saturday.

It wasn’t an official Sound of Music Singalong, but rapturous audience members forming an impromptu ensemble as the overture led into the second half of the show.

Lucy O'Byrne as Maria. Photo: Mark Yeoman

Lucy O’Byrne as Maria. Photo: Mark Yeoman

There’s a slim chance you know the story of Maria, a would-be nun sent to test her vocation via a spell as governess to the seven children of widower Captain Von Trapp. The senior sisters aren’t sure the abbey is for Maria or Maria is for the abbey, so discernment is the order of the day.

Maria quickly finds that mothering the retired naval officer’s brood makes her as happy as the Austrian alps in which she loves to wander – but what are these feelings she’s having for the Captain? And can anyone find happiness as the shadow of Nazi Germany falls across Austria?

There was certainly plenty of happiness in the Playhouse as Martin Connor’s pacy production brightened the gloom of a wet Tuesday. Lucy O’Byrne makes a luminous Maria, full of life and love and song, and it’s easy to believe the children would take to her so quickly.

In a sense, it’s Lucy O’Byrne playing Julie Andrews playing Maria Rainer, but as there seems to be some unwritten law that Maria has to be played as in the unforgettable film, that’s forgivable; the main thing is that she has a big talent and puts it to great use. Numbers such as My Favourite Things and the title song are delivered joyfully, with skill.

gorgeous musicality and power

Maria doesn’t get the showstopper, though – that’s Climb Every Mountain, delivered with gorgeous musicality and power by Jan Hartley as the Mother Abbess.

Gray OBrien as Captain Von Trapp. Photo: Mark Yeoman

Gray O’Brien as Captain Von Trapp. Photo: Mark Yeoman

Gray O’Brien has bags of charm as the Captain, and he convinces us that beneath the stiff gait of the naval officer there beats the heart of a loving family man.

Little by little, the cold shell Von Trapp has built around himself since his wife died melts, as Maria refuses to make his children spend hour after hour marching in uniform. O’Brien isn’t the best of singers, with his solo moments being occasionally uncomfortable, but this makes for real tension as a German officer demands he prove he’s a member of the Family Von Trapp Singers. Will his singing satisfy?

Sweet-voiced Annie Horn is terrific as Liesl, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, and her duet with telegram boy Rolf, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, is enlivened marvellously by Bill Deamer’s choreography.

balletic bounding

Instead of the inordinately elegant dance from the movie, we get delightfully exuberant, balletic bounding from the young lovers. And Kane Verrall is spot on as junior Nazi Rolf, – heck, at times in this sequence he’s almost goosestepping.

Lucy OByrne as Maria and Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess. Design by Gary McCann. Photo: Mark Yeoman

Lucy O’Byrne as Maria and Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess. Design by Gary McCann. Photo: Mark Yeoman

The other six Von Trapps – Friedrich, Louisa and all – are played on this tour by three groups of young performers and I couldn’t tell you which lot were on stage. I can say that every one of the sextet we saw is superb, perfectly drilled but never dry. The harmonies on Do-Re-Mi are pitch perfect, while So Long, Farewell actually brought a tear to my eyes. On the evidence of this performance, there’s no reason to believe any of the other 12 teeny actors – chosen by children’s casting expert Jo Hawes – who may show up will be any less good.

Isla Carter has it tough, having to play Elsa Schraeder, the woman no one wants to marry the Captain, so kudos to her for not making Maria’s love rival a wicked witch. And while her two numbers, How Can Love Survive? and No Way To Stop It, aren’t big crowdpleasers – well, they’re not in the film – Carter ensures they’re enjoyable.

suitably sumptuous

Uncle Max, friend of the family and master pragmatist, is nicely sketched by Duncan Smith, while the rest of the cast of nuns, Nazis and servants provide strong support.

The sets are suitably sumptuous, with designer Gary McCann showing just how much value you can get from an abbey and a mansion. And David Steadman directs his  tight, tuneful band with real verve – I bet they adored that post-interval singalong.

The Sound of Music is such a classic that it might be thought unbreakable, but any production can go awry if the key elements aren’t right. This one is pretty much all there – if you’ve any affection at all for lonely goatherds, edelweiss and nuns on the run, you’ll likely love it.

Running time 2 hours 40 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 January 2016
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds/Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website:

The Sound of Music on tour 2016:
5-9 Jan Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
12 -16 Jan Aberdeen
Her Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
19 -23 Jan Stoke
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
2-6 Feb Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892 277 Book online
9-13 Feb High Wycombe
Swan Theatre
01494 512 000 Book online
16-20 Feb Bradford
Alhambra Theatre
01274 432000 Book online
23-27 Feb Ipswich
Regent Theatre
01473 433100 Book online
18-21 May Aylesbury
Waterside Theatre
0844 871 7607 Book online
24-28 May Birmingham
Hippodrome Theatre
0844 338 5000 Book online
31 May-11 Jun Shrewsbury
Severn Theatre
01743 281281 Book online
21-25 Jun Sunderland
Empire Theatre
0844 871 3022 Book online
5-9 Jul Blackpool
Opera House
01253 625252 Book online
11-16 Jul Cheltenham
Everyman Theatre
01242 572573 Book online
25-30 Jul Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,