Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Sound of Music
Also see Susan's review of A Broadway Christmas Carol
Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington is presenting a polished production of The Sound of Music as its holiday gift to the community. Director-choreographer Mark Waldrop has done a solidly professional, if not especially exciting, job with a capable cast and orchestra.
Rather than looking for new insights or innovative staging in the material, this production follows tradition. For example, James Fouchard's scenic design sets out the mountains and meadows of rural Austria on a series of backdrops and scrims, and the actors perform some scenes in front of a curtain to cover a set change.
The Sound of Music, which opened on Broadway in 1959, was the last collaboration of Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein (lyrics), with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The Olney production includes the two songs added for the 1965 movie; Hammerstein died in 1960, so Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics for "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good."
Most people are familiar with the story of Maria (Jessica Lauren Ball), the high-spirited postulant who finds her true calling as governess and music teacher to the seven children of Captain Georg von Trapp (George Dvorsky). Part of the joy of this production is Ball's youthfulness and the way she keeps her emotions close to the surface: her delight, confusion, and moral resolve all show on her face. Dvorsky offers both a resonant singing voice and an emphatic physical presence as his character melts from military precision into doting fatherhood.
Among the supporting roles, Bobby Smith plays impresario Max Detweiler with enough sly self-awareness that his opportunism never becomes hateful. Jenna Sokolowski inhabits the role of wealthy, pragmatic Elsa Schraeder as comfortably as she wears her sleek costumes (coordinated by Jeanne Bland and Seth Gilbert). The children, individually and as a group, sing well and avoid mugging.
The press performance did include an example of grace under pressure. Laryngitis kept Channez McQuay from singing the role of the Mother Abbess, although she was able to speak her lines audibly; Tracy Lynn Olivera (playing Sister Sophia) stepped in to sing "Climb Every Mountain" as McQuay acted the scene with Ball.
Olney Theatre Center