If The Sound of Music is one of your favourite things, then this production is all the warm woollen mittens you’ll need this chilly February.
It surely needs no introduction, as the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews (who, like her Mary Poppins, was practically perfect in every way) is arguably the most popular musical movie of all time. As the back drop of the Austrian mountains lifts to reveal the stone pillars of the Nonnberg Abbey and the nuns begin a breathtakingly beautiful harmonic rendition of ‘Preludium’, the hairs on the back of the neck begin to rise. By the time Lucy O’ Byrne, as a sweet Maria with the voice of an angel, has got to ‘The hills are alive…’ tears are pricking the eyes.
Despite the first half lasting a lengthy 90-plus minutes, the time flies blissfully by. The stage show changes the running order of a couple of the oh-so well-known tunes (that some of the audience are finding difficult not to sing along to, judging by the audible yet muted hummings), but to see the Mother Abbess transgressively skipping about with Maria while letting rip with ‘My Favourite Things’, brings such joy that the slight deviation from the familiar format is more than forgiven.
The story, however, does largely follow its traditional path, with just a couple of tweaks to make the ending more stage-friendly. Maria, deemed not yet ready to take her vows, is sent from the Abbey to become governess to Captain von Trapp’s seven children. Maria quickly gains the love of the children and slowly thaws the frozen heart of the Captain. When the Nazis force the von Trapps to flee their home, the nuns are on hand to ensure they climb every mountain until they find their dream, somewhere over the Swiss border.
It’s a great cast, with Neil McDermott as a husky-voiced but commanding Captain, Kara Lane with just the right amount of elegant condescension as Elsa Schraeder, and Howard Samuels as an ebullient Max, who manages to stay just the right side of camping it up to keep the Nazis guessing. Pippa Winslow as the Mother Abbess, is by turns a little shaky and absolutely and completely glorious, but this show wouldn’t be what it is without the kids, and they are all, each and every one, superb.
If, on these long winter evenings, you feel you need cheering up at all – and even if you don’t – then ford every stream and follow every rainbow until you find the Edinburgh Playhouse. But you’ve only got to the end of the week!
Runs until 24th February