Review: The Sound of Music - O’Byrne’s elfin Maria is a joy

The Sound of Music at Edinburgh Playhouse
The Sound of Music at Edinburgh Playhouse
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let’s start at the very beginning, Roger and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music boasts one of the most powerful scores ever.

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THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place

Bill Kenwright’s touring production takes that gift, adds a lead lady to die for, and brings it to life on Gary McCann’s magical set that starts as a picture postcard before capturing both the serenity of convent and grandeur of mansion alike.

Based on the true story of the von Trapp Family Singers, from their search for happiness to their escape from the Nazis at the start of WWll, The Sound of Music includes the much-loved show-stoppers Edelweiss, My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and, naturally, The Sound of Music.

Indeed it would be fair to say that in this musical the songs are the stars, and so it is in this production, despite three understudies taking to the stage on press night.

The knock on effect of Megan Llewellyn’s absence saw Pippa Winslow promoted from Frau Schmidt to Mother Abbess, Tammy Davies stepping in as Frau Schmidt, and Chrissie Perkins donning the habit of Sister Sophia, vacated by Perkins.

Winslow proved particularly effective as the Mother Abbess, delivering a spine-tingling rendition of Climb Ev’ry Mountain to bring Act One to a close.

However, not everything flows as well and, while there may something incongruous about a superfluity of nuns manoeuvring chairs and desks into position, it’s a momentary breaking of the spell unlike the perfunctory choreography.

If Neil McDermott’s Cpt von Trapp lacks maturity and remains fairly one-dimensional throughout, he works well as a foil for Lucy O’Byrne’s elfin-like Maria.

Radiating warmth and generosity, and with perfect pitch, she beguiles von Trapp children and audience alike with her joyous performance.

Kara Lane as the Captain’s love interest, Nazi collaborator Elsa Schraeder, is another notable performance, sashaying around the stage with cool mercenary grace.

As the Nazi threat, which is down-played throughout the first act, becomes brutally evident in the second, so the production lifts a notch, culminating in a truly haunting rendition of Eidelweiss with the family von Trapp overshadowed by a backdrop of swastikas.

By then, we really don’t want them to say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.

Run ends Saturday 24 February