One of the greatest musicals of all time returns to the stage in this magnificent five star production to enchant the young and the young at heart.

Based on Baroness Maria Von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography, this wonderfully lavish new staging of The Sound Of Music tells the true story of the world-famous singing family, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their thrilling escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich at the start of WWII.

The unforgettable score features some of the most memorable songs ever performed on stage, including EdelweissMy Favorite ThingsDo-Re-MiClimb Ev’ry Mountain, and of course, the title song, The Sound of Music.

After a successful tour in 2016, Bill Kenwright brings a new production of The Sound Of Music back to UK stages. Being one of the greatest family musicals of all time, the show and film is held in high regard by people nationwide. It was nice to see a cross section of ages at the New Alexandra Theatre last night where it plays until the end of the week.

Gary McCann’s set design swiftly transitions between the Von Trapp house, abbey and mountains with ease. The fixed legs and borders are relevant in every scene and although the set is not as lavish as previous productions, it is fit for purpose and thought out well. Director Martin Connor has ensured that the pace never falters and perhaps the first half does feel a little lengthy but there isn’t a great deal that can be done about that. The natural place to end Act One feels like it should be when Maria leaves the house after she realises she’s in love with Captain Von Trapp. However the actual end of Act One happens after ‘Climb Every Mountain’ which in hindsight is the right place, being the emotional climax of the piece.

Certain scenes felt like they needed more cast members such as during the Grand Waltz but choreographically it does still work. Bill Deamer’s choreography peaks during the intricacies of ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’ but seems a little lazier in numbers such as ‘No Way To Stop It’ - a song which doesn’t feature in the film.

David Steadman’s musical direction and orchestral adaptation is fully realised with its rich sound. It is disappointing that ‘I Have Confidence’ does not feature as this is often a crowd pleaser but the orchestra more than comes to life during the Grand Waltz and is quite breathtaking.

The Voice’s Lucy O’Byrne is the perfect Maria. She embodies everything you would expect of the character and has a natural ease and likability. She received great reviews in the last UK tour and continues to impress. Eastenders star Neil McDermott playing Captain Von Trapp left me slightly confused. Personally he feels too young to play the role and it’s hard to believe certain elements of his back story. The tone of his speaking voice is a little odd in the first half but when his character softens in Act Two, he does find his feet more. McDermott’s acting skills are excellent and vocally he is superb but something doesn’t sit too well with the casting.

The Von Trapp children are headed up by Katie Shearman as Leisl and all are so in sync with one another. They have a lovely chemistry between them and you never feel nervous as an audience member watching. Other stand out performances come from Megan Llewellyn who is the ultimate Mother Abbess and sings ‘Climb Every Mountain’ brilliantly, Howard Samuels as the loveable Max and Kara Lane as Baroness Schraeder, who finds the perfect character balance and is vocally stunning.

A well-executed, joyful new production with just a few tiny kinks.

The Sound Of Music shows at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 20 January.

Jenny Ell **** 

4 Stars on Wed, 17 Jan 2018

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