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The Sound of Music
Landmark Musicals

Also see Dean's reviews of One Man, Two Guvnors


(first row): Alivia Abernathy, Dakota Bohman, Logan Lasher; (top row): Stephen Miller, Annelise Wall, Zoey Reese, Mackenzee Donham and Ariana Gant.
The Sound of Music is the final musical by the immensely successful team of Richard Rodgers (lyrics) and Oscar Hammerstein II (music). The book is by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The Sound of Music tells the story of Maria, a young nun in Austria who's not quite making it at the convent. She's too full of life and song. The Mother Abbess decides to send Maria off to work as a governess for the Von Trapp family, a local rich widower and his seven children. In his grief, Captain Von Trapp has resorted to his military training to keep his kids in line. He believes marching is the best form of play. The kids go along with it, but they are aware dad's a tad off deep end.

Maria immediately brings life, song and emotional cheer to the mansion, much to the delight of the children, who are desperate for a mother. The Captain resists initially. His wife had loved music and, since her death, he has forbidden music in the home. But Maria is irresistible. And while it looks like the Captain is heading toward a marriage with a manipulative socialite, he falls for Maria. Maria, confused by her growing feelings for the Captain, returns to the convent. The wise Mother Abbess sees that Maria is just afraid of these powerful new feelings of love. She knows the young woman was meant for the fruits of a secular life, so she insists that Maria return to the Von Trapp family.

Love wins out. The socialite is rebuffed. The Captain and Maria marry, much to the delight of the seven kids. Yet a dark shadow hangs over these happy people. Nazi Germany is about to annex Austria against its earlier promises of Austrian independence.

The Sound of Music shares its historical setting with the musical Cabaret. In both stories, the characters see the world upturned by the rise of Nazism. This is the big character test of the last 100 years—will you become complicit with the darkness represented by the Third Reich? In both musicals we see some of the characters fall to the temptation to "just go along" with the Nazis as the world goes black. The characters in both musicals are elevated by the power of this rough historical time, and the musicals are thus elevated.

Our heroes in The Sound of Music are forced to make a choice, similar to the choice that has to be made in Cabaret: become complicit with the Nazis or flee. At the end of The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family flees. Back in 1959, it was a safe bet to show good people facing the terror of Nazi Germany, especially since the primary audience for the musical is made up of those who triumphed over the Nazis. So, does this mean the dramatic setting is cynical, patriotic, or simply good storytelling? Probably all three.

The Sound of Music was a smash. The music became ubiquitous in the early '60s as the 1960 cast recording spent 16 weeks at number one. The 1965 film soundtrack for the film version became the biggest selling soundtrack of all time, racking up 10 million in sales at the time when the Beatles were sucking all the oxygen out of the recording industry. And why not, the songs are uniformly delightful. On stage the songs appear, then reappear, then reappear again, all brilliantly.

The production by Landmark Musicals is solid throughout. Good choice by producer, Myra Cochnar. Excellent direction by Daniel Yurgaitis. Terrific music direction by Wojciech and wonderful choreography by Louis Giannini, who brings magic to everything he touches on stage. The rest of the production crew has done a great job as well. I was able to lose myself in the story and song, an uncommon experience for this reviewer.

There are a lot of roles in The Sound of Music that have to be just right in both singing and acting for the production to work. This cast hits all the right notes. Zoey Reese well manages Maria's perky blend of rebellion and deference. Cody K. Wesner-Ellis as Mother Abbess delivers a strong performance of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," the power ballad of the musical.

All the kids are delightful, but Dakota Bohman as the youngest Von Trapp kid, Gretl, is painfully charming in the best way possible. She steals every scene she is in. You just can't take your eyes off her. At age 8, this is her fifth production, her second with Landmark (She was Molly in Annie in 2012), so she knows what she's doing. My goodness. Thanks to Myra and all for a very good time at the theater.

The Sound of Music by Landmark Musicals will run through July 27, 2014. Performances are on Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will also be a matinee performance on Saturday, July 19 at 2:00 pm. Performances are held in Rodey Theatre at the UNM Fine Arts Complex. Tickets are $20, $22, and $24, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. You can buy tickets online at landmarkmusicals.org, or by calling 505-925-5858 or 877-664-8661.


Photo: Max Woltman

--Rob Spiegel



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