If the measure of a good show is how many people burst into song as they leave the theatre, The Sound of Music is surely well up there. Based on the true story of the Von Trapp family, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical is undoubtedly a classic, featuring a host of much-loved songs, a heartwarming love story, some unexpected Nazis and the world’s nicest children. What’s not to love?
Set in 1930s Austria, The Sound of Music tells the story of Maria, a young woman struggling to adapt to the restrictive life of a nun, who’s sent away to live with the Von Trapp family as a governess. Charmed by the seven musically talented Von Trapp children, it’s not long before she starts to fall for their father too. All seems to be turning out well, until the Nazis turn up and try to ruin everything (as Nazis do).
Bill Kenwright’s revival stars Lucy O’Byrne, who gives a pitch perfect performance in just about every way. Maria is a role that requires a lot more vocally than just do-re-mi, and O’Byrne wastes no time in showing off the incredible range that took her all the way to the final of TV’s The Voice, along with the irresistible joie de vivre that instantly wins over both Von Trapps and audience alike.
But it’s not just the star of the show who hits the mark vocally. Rebecca Caine comes close to outshining the rest of the cast, as she brings down the curtain on both acts with her stunning rendition of Climb Every Mountain. Former Corrie star Andrew Lancel produces a charming Edelweiss, and the Von Trapp children repeatedly melt our hearts with their polished performance and beautiful harmonies.
Gary McCann’s set is one of the most impressive I’ve seen at the Orchard. The story takes us back and forth more than once between Nonnberg Abbey and the Von Trapp house, with occasional trips to other locations – and the set follows suit, without ever missing a beat or compromising on either scale or detail. And these frequent set changes happen so smoothly that the audience, absorbed in the story and music, barely notices them.
Nazis aside, The Sound of Music is very much a feel-good show; it’s difficult not to walk out feeling a little bit better about life (and, let’s be honest, even the Nazis aren’t that scary, really). It’s a love story first and foremost, but there are some other themes in there too, like growing up, finding your passion in life and standing up for what you believe in, no matter what anyone else says. Also, singing is good. As are hills.
For lifelong fans of The Sound of Music, this revival is a fitting tribute. For first timers or – dare I say it – sceptics, it may just win you over. Either way, it’s a production not to be missed.
The Sound of Music is at the Orchard Theatre until 1st October.