sound of muic pic and head

The Sound Of Music

Malvern Theatres

****

VIEWERS of TV talent show The Voice may remember opera-singing theatre usher Lucy O'Byrne describing her ambition to be on the stage rather than showing audiences to their seats.

The classically-trained soprano has now been given the chance to take centre stage in this new Bill Kenwright production but is it too much of a mountain to climb?

This Sound Of Music is a slick production and it needs to be to live up to the expectations of thousands of fans of the popular musical.

It charts how singing nun Maria brings happiness and music back into the lives of widowed Captain von Trapp and his seven children while the threat of the Nazis in Austria grows ever closer.

The set recreates the luxurious von Trapp family home complete with gramariand staircase. Then there's the mediaeval arches and stained glass windows at the convent, where the story opens. It seems as though no expense has been spared.

I remember watching the The Sound Of Music film over and over again as a child and those enamoured with the movie, like me, should be prepared for a lot of differences.

The theatre production still works well and, importantly, the songs are all there, but the order of how things happen and the characterisations are not the same.

Lucy O'Byrne as Maria with the von Trapp children

There's no puppet show, the nuns don't end up sabotaging the Nazi car, and the Captain's fiancé doesn't have any rivalry with Maria and leaves because of a disagreement over the Nazis.

In fact, the romance of Maria and the Captain is played down with greater emphasis on the children - who are adorable and bristling with ability.

Playing the dashing captain is former Coronation Street actor Gray O'Brien. He's strong on the drama but I'm not sure if he had a frog in his throat or his singing is a bit suspect as his gravelly tones were a bit shaky at times.

Luckily there's O'Byrne to lead the singing charge across the mountain tops and she doesn't put a note wrong musically.

It's a good job, as the emphasis is on the singing, which is phenomenal throughout.

Despite finishing as runner-up in Series Four of The Voice UK as part of Team Will, O'Byrne has a fantastic tone of voice.

She's a good choice for Maria, as in a short blonde wig she has something of a young Julie Andrews about her.

The only cast member who comes close to her vocally is Mother Abbess (played by Jan Hartley), who is outstanding, stealing the show with Climb Every Mountain. Hartley actually played Maria in the first national tour of the Sound Of Music several years ago.

Overall, this latest production still has the charm, glamour and songs to keep fans happy. It received a standing ovation in Malvern as well as proving that young Lucy O'Byrne is "the voice" to contend with. To 06-02-16.

Alison Brinkworth

02-02-16 

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