Review: The Sound of Music @ Palace Theatre, Manchester

Forget cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels – this new stage production of The Sound of Music will be one of your favourite things.

Over fifty years may have passed since Maria von Trapp’s story debuted on the big screen, but the classic musical remains much-loved by both the young and the young-at-heart.

In fact, millions of fans from all over the world still make the pilgrimage to the musical mecca of Salzburg, where the action takes place, to relive their favourite scenes.

For one week only, however, the Austrian Alps have come to Manchester as The Sound of Music stops by the Palace Theatre on its nationwide tour.

Living up to Julie Andrews is a daunting task for any actress, but The Voice alumna Lucy O’Byrne makes for a more than worthy successor.

MUCH-LOVED: The production is adored by the young and young at heart

It’s not the first time the Dubliner has worn the hallowed von Trapp habit. She first took on the role of Maria in 2016, the year after coming second on the BBC talent show under Will.i.am’s mentorship.

Before her television breakthrough she was a theatre usher, but her incredible vocals prove that the stage, not the aisles, is where she belongs.

There’s only one thing letting her down and that’s a terrible wig that looks like it has been stolen from an amateur production of Cabaret. The rest of the costumes look really well-made and realistic, so this is a surprising error of judgement from the crew.

UNIQUE: The musical isn’t a carbon copy of the film

EastEnders’ Neil McDermott, who stars as Captain von Trapp opposite Byrne, is also no newcomer to the story, having been cast as villainous Rolf in the musical’s London Palladium revival 11 years ago.

Perhaps through nerves, his Captain is rather unlikeable at first as he plays the character with more anger and irritation than his on-screen predecessor, Christopher Plummer.

Fortunately, he seems to relax as the Captain’s personality thaws and he eventually wins over everyone in the audience with a heartfelt rendition of Edelweiss.

As you might expect in a production with a young cast, it’s the children who steal every scene they’re in.

WARMING: This show can charm even the coldest of people

Gretel is a particular favourite, with her every word greeted by audible squeals of ‘how cute!’ from the audience. But their squeals become awestruck gasps when Mother Abbess, the masterful Megan Llewellyn, belts out Climb Every Mountain.

The charming dance routine of Rolf and Liesl –played by Jordan Oliver and Katie Shearman respectively – during Sixteen Going On Seventeen also deserves a special mention.  

Some touring productions are let down by their set, but in this case it’s the set that is the icing on the, er, stollen. The swastikas that unfurl behind the children as they sing Edelweiss are a particularly stark reminder of the terrible time when the musical is set, bringing a darker note to an otherwise light-hearted evening.

Don’t go expecting a carbon copy of the film. There are a few extra songs that make welcome additions, such as How Will Love Survive, and the band’s toe-tapping rendition means they’ll be stuck in your head for days to come.

Leave the streets of Manchester behind for a night and embrace the dirndls and drama. Only the most cold-hearted could fail to be charmed by this enchanting production.

*The Sound of Music is playing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday, March 17. You can buy tickets HERE.

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