THEATRE REVIEW: The Sound of Music, Sunderland Empire

The Sound of Music at the Sunderland Empire

The Sound of Music at the Sunderland Empire

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You can't beat a classic - and that is certainly true of The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

If I could sum up the stage version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece in just one word, it would have to be 'beautiful'.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

Everything about it was gorgeous, from the cuteness of the children, to the costumes.

But, the pièce de résistance for me was the setting, so much thought and work had gone into creating amazing backdrops which changed seemlessly from the abbey, to the Von Trapp house and to the mountains of Austria.

Staircases moved around, windows and stone-style pillars moved up and down, but it was all done so effortlessly that it never distracted from the performances.

Taking on the role of Maria is Lucy O'Byrne, who was runner up on BBC's The Voice. I don't know if she had spent weeks watching the movie, but she had the character down to a tee - in fact at points if you closed your eyes it could have been a young Julie Andrews talking.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

O'Byrne's energy and enthusiasm keep going throughout and she is truly the star of the show.

Stepping into the role of Captain von Trapp is Andrew Lancel, best known for his award-winning role as Coronation Street villain, Frank Foster.

Christopher Plummer would be a hard act to follow by anyone's standards and Lancel's portrayal of the over-bearing captain, running his house to military precision, fell a bit short of the mark. Instead of being dark, brooding and a force to be reckoned with, he came across as a bit weak. That said he does have a good singing voice.

And, talking of singing voices, all praise for that needs to go to Jan Hartley, who, as the Mother Abbess, raises the roof - and the audience to their feet - with her rendition of Climb Ev'ry Mountain, she was absolutely spectacular.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

The Sound of Music at The Sunderland Empire.

If there is anyone who hasn't seen the film The Sound of Music, although I don't know how when it is one of the best family musical of all time, it follows the story of Maria who wants to become a nun.

Not quite up to the job she is sent to be the governess of the seven children of Captain von Trapp, where she promptly falls in love with both him and his brood.

It is based on a real-life family who use their singing talents to help them flee their beloved Austria when it becomes part of the Third Reich.

The unforgettable score features some of the most memorable songs ever performed on stage, including ‘Edelweiss’, ‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Do-Re- Mi’ and ‘So Long, Farewell’.

But, a small spoiler alert - not all of the songs are sung in the place you would expect them as the producers of the show put their little twists on the story.

Bill Kenwright’s production of The Sound of Music will be at the Sunderland Empire until June 25.