Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Sound of Music follows the story of postulant Maria as she serves as a governess for a naval captain's seven children in Austria once it seems a religious life isn't in her future. The Captain and Maria find themselves falling in love just as the Nazi regime is about to invade Austria.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's most famous show is an almost perfect musical, with the right balance of humorous scenes, joyful songs, and inspirational moments. It was actually their last collaboration together, as Hammerstein would die less than a year after the show opened on Broadway. For the film version that came after Hammerstein's death Rodgers composed one song, "Something Good," which has been incorporated into the touring production. With the exception of that one change, this version of the show appears to be the original 1959 script with the songs exactly as they were written for the original production, including those that were cut for the movie.
Director Jack O'Brien is to be commended for bringing a fresh take to this familiar story. His leads bring an impulsiveness to their characters that makes them seem real, honest and natural. His staging is fluid and almost cinematic at times as he expertly uses Douglas W. Schmidt's large and lush scenic design to paint some beautiful stage pictures and swiftly move us from one scene to the next. O'Brien also perfectly manages the many tasks required to ensure a rewarding production of this show that includes seven children, comedy, romance and drama, without letting the proceedings veer into schmaltz. Schmidt's smart design also includes some stunning backdrops that highlight the surrounding Alps while Jane Greenwood's costumes are flawless and Natasha Katz's evocative lighting provides some lush colors and hues, especially in one scene that evokes the many colors a sunset displays as it evolves into a nighttime sky.
Kerstin Anderson's Maria is both human and humorous. Anderson is stunning in her portrayal of the many layers of Maria. At first she is anxious and unsure of what her true calling is, then confused by the connection she finds herself having with the Captain, and yet at the same time finding simple joy in the time she spends with the children. Throughout, her every action is natural, with some of the most famous lines delivered in a way that makes them seem like they are being heard for the first time. Anderson has a superb singing voice which soars on many of the score's best known songs. As the Captain, Ben Davis is adept at showing how this stern man softens once Maria comes into his life. He has a stellar voice with deep and rich tones and he and Anderson form a passionate duo.
Melody Betts brings a realism and earthiness to Mother Abbess. Her warmth and strong personality nicely balance the strong and softer sides of this powerful woman, and her delivery of "Climb Every Mountain" soars. Good work is also done by Teri Hansen as Elsa, the woman the Captain is seeing when Maria first arrives to oversee the children, and Merwin Foard as Max, the Captain's friend. Foard adds some nice touches of humor in his scenes. Paige Silvester is the Captain's oldest daughter Liesl, and Austin Colby is Rolf the young man she is in love with. They share a sweet duet of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."
The Sound of Music is a classic show. With a first rate cast and excellent direction that masterfully combine to instill a freshness into the familiar story, the national tour is an almost perfect production of one of the best loved musicals of all time.
The Sound of Music plays through October 23rd, 2016, at ASU Gammage located at 1200 S. Forest Avenue in Tempe. Tickets can be purchased at www.asugammage.com or by calling 480 965-3434. For more information on the tour, visit www.thesoundofmusicontour.com.
Book: Howard Lindsay And Russel Crouse
Maria Rainer Kerstin Anderson