Also see John's review of A Round-Heeled Woman
The original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959, (moved to the Mark Hellinger Theatre on November 6, 1962) and closed on June 15, 1963, after 1,443 performances. The production tied with Fiorello! for the Tony Award for Best Musical that year. Other awards it received include Best Actress in a Musical (Mary Martin as Maria), Best Featured Actress (Patricia Neway as the Mother Abbess), Best Scenic Design and Best Musical Direction. The entire children's cast was nominated in the Best Featured Actress category as a single nominee, even though two children were boys. A Broadway revival of The Sound of Music opened on March 12, 1998, at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it ran for 15 months.
The Sound of Music was adapted into an Academy Award winning film musical in 1965 starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It is this beloved film version that is firmly and fondly remembered by so many. Several songs from the musical have become familiar standards, including "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," Do-Re-Mi" and the title song. The Sound of Music understandably remains America's favorite family musical.
Set is Salzburg, Austria, just before World War II, The Sound of Music is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." The musical tells the story of religious postulant Maria Rainer (Catherine Walker) who is sent by the Mother Abbess (April Woodall) of Nonnberg Abbey to be the governess to the seven children of wealthy widower Captain Von Trapp (Michael Sharon). The Captain is contemplating marriage to a beautiful widow, Elsa Von Shraeder (Elisa Van Duyne), though they perhaps do not agree on the implications of the changing political climate. The Captain is a proud Austrian unprepared to bow to the Nazi regime despite the advice he receives to "be wisecompromise" by his best friend and opportunist Max (Randall Frizado).
Maria discovers that the stern Captain rules his home like a battleship, and his children like soldiers. Her infectious good nature, open heart, and love of music warm the cold nature of the Von Trapp household. She quickly grows to love the children, and they her. When it seems the Captain is drawn to Maria as well, she must weigh the feelings that he awakens inside of her that would perhaps point to a life outside of the convent.
The gloriously sung "Preludium" in the opening scene at the Abbey sets the bar for this production. The pieces sung by the Maltz cast of Nuns, such as this and "Confitemini Domino," are welcome musical moments done to near perfection. Catherine Walker captures much of the phrasing and sweet sound of the voice of Julie Andrews in her performance as Maria. There is enough similarity to comfortably remind us of Andrews without imitating her. She has an honest quality in her take on the role that is without the cloying sweetness with which it is sometimes played, and has nice chemistry with the cast of Von Trapp children. This is a role Walker plays well, and will hopefully have the chance to play again.
Michael Sharon captures the sternness of Captain Von Trapp and perhaps the loneliness of which his cool nature is born. He remains stern a bit too long, however, and overacts through much of the show. He delivers every single line with a head shake or toss and usually a hand gesture. His chemistry with Maria is as not as strong as hers with the children. He is missing a tenderness in his physicality with her, and his kisses hint more of sexual passion than romantic love. If passion were the draw, surely he could have more easily directed that at the willing Elsa. Elisa Van Duyne embodies sensual elegance as Elsa, and displays some lovely costuming to full advantage. She manages to make Elsa pragmatic rather than selfish. The stage musical has she and the Captain parting due to differences in political philosophies rather than over his love for Maria (though that love is already in place).
While Randall Frizado is funny as Max, much of that humor lies purely in the way the role is written. He could have gone further with the quirkiness in his portrayal of the character. On the other hand, April Woodall as the Mother Abbess, seems to have a hard time downplaying her comedic acting inclinations. Her fresh and unexpected take on the role make the Mother Abbess is more human and relatable, and nicely contrasts the sternness of the Captain. She does not disappoint in her singing of the awaited "Climb Every Mountain" at the end of act one. One wishes that it was she who is standing center stage at the end of the song rather than Maria, however, as Maria has enough solos of her own.
Michael Shultz as Rolf and as Jenny Piersol as Liesl share an endearing, well directed scene in "Sixteen Going On Seventeen." Her singing voice is oddly the only pop sounding one in the show. Later, when Rolf discovers the Von Trapps hiding in the Abbey, there are overly long moments of silent apprehension and indecision between him and the family. The director mistakenly must think that we can actually see their faces during all of this when we can't. Either change the lighting or restage the scene. There are also some moments of over-staged scene work. People do not actually continue to turn and walk away from each other, and cross mid-conversation, unless it is important. Over-staging these moments weakens the truly motivated cross.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is indeed "blessed with the sound of music." They have found a perfect Maria, a talented cast of children who perform with professionalism and precision, an ensemble of actresses playing nuns whose vocal skills would be coveted by many a musical director, beautifully played music, and picturesque scenic design. Their production of The Sound of Music is (pardon my pun) one of my favorite things musically this season.
Together, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Cinderella, State Fair, Flower Drum Song, Me And Juliet, Allegro and Pipe Dream. Among their many accolades are thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize and two Grammy Awards. While the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein have been described by some as antiquated and lacking in appeal to the contemporary audience, it should be noted that they not only wrote memorable melodies and poetic lyrics, but fearlessly addressed topics 50 years ago that are controversial even by today's standards. They included domestic violence in Carousel, racism in South Pacific, and the atrocities of the Nazi regime in The Sound of Music well before these themes were being addressed by their contemporaries in musical form.
The Sound of Music will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through January 30, 2011. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.