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The Sound of Music

The New Alexandra Theatre


It’s 59 years since Maria first sang her heart out on the mountains of Salzburg and the hills are alive with music again in this second tour of Bill Kenwright’s faithful new production.

With lavish sets flying in and out from Gary McCann and a big orchestra for touring shows, 11 strong under musical director Anthony Gabriele, the stage is set for lovely production of this classic musical.

The show might be due a bus pass shortly but you would never know it with a production as fresh and alive as those distant hills. There is nothing old or tired about this show.

Lucy O’Byrne, (Fantine in Les Miserables and runner-up in The Voice) is a splendid Maria, suitably obedient, or trying hard to be, as a postulate at the local abbey, and nicely rebellious as the von Trapp governess – and what a lovely voice. Debut, her latest album, including five impressive opera tracks, is out on Island Records and streaming incidentally.

Neil McDermott is a suitably stern Captain Georg von Trapp who runs his home and his children like the submarine and crew he once commanded. McDermott is perhaps best known for TV roles, especially as Ryan Malloy in EastEnders, but he has a solid theatre and musical CV behind him and it shows with an easy presence on stage and a find baritone voice.

His epiphany from stern submarine commander to doting dad is all a bit sudden in act 2 but once he has seen the light it does give him a bit more to play with emotionally.

Howard Samuels does a good job as the camp secretary of education organising the music festival and playing Vicar of Bray with the Nazis as the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, looms while Kara Lane is the image of a late 1930’s socialite as Elsa Schraeder, the Viennese Baroness, with her wealthy claws in her wealthy prey – the good captain.


Lucy O'Byrne as Maria with the von Trapp children - pictures include previous cast

When it comes to the singing credits there is no one to touch Megan Llewellyn who gives Climb Every Mountain some real, heavy duty wellie as Mother Abbess – climb mountains? She could blast them away with the power of that voice – that’s what comes of having a fully trained, card carrying opera singer on the books with Welsh National Opera, D’Oyly Carte and Phantom in the West End on her CV. A magnificent voice to end both acts.

And while we are on endings, could we not have something a bit more dramatic than a ramp with a handrail behind the scrim for the von Trapps escape over the mountains. Even a few painted flat rocks stuck on would help.

Katie Shearman plays sweet teenager Liesl well while Jordan Oliver is a rather awkward Rolf, with a charming duet and dance with Liesl. The pair are an item until he finds his, still uncertain, feet as a committed, uniformed Nazi.

There is good support from the rest of the children, who are an essential, integral part of the show, with three teams taking on the roles, while the nuns, lead by Zoë Ann Bown as Sister Margaretta and Lucy Miller as Sister Berthe try hard to solve the problem of Maria.

Direction by Martin Connor is crisp and well paced, choreography from Bill Deamer if not spectacular at least interesting - those von Trapps did like their marching - while Nick Richings' lighting is a lesson to any aspiring lighting designer adding to every scene.

It is such a well known musical that you could see the audience perk up with anticipation as a favourite bit, or song came along and, the proof of the pudding when it comes to musicals, is in the leaving and as we flooded out into the cold and soon to be snowing night, everyone had a smile and that little bit of a skip in their step that shows a good evening was had by all. It made not just the hills but the whole of the Alex alive. To 20-01-18

Roger Clarke


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