It is said that if you hear a lie over and over again, it is perceived as truth in due course. And that's how it was for me with The Sound of Music.
As I walked into the Martin Beck theater, I thought about that. Why on earth would I want to see this sugar-coated, saccharine-sweet familiar tale?
I bought the ticket at the TKTS booth for half price thinking I could always leave at intermission (and that was my intention). I knew I was going to hate it because the lies became truth in my brain over the years.
I sat in the theater looking at the gorgeous curtain with its glass snowball design waiting for the swirling snow to reveal the magic behind. When it opens, you are in the abbey with its Gothic arches for the opening scene and the novices sing a glorious song in Latin .
As the scenery changed at the end of that introduction, I was stunned beyond belief as the music began to build, and Rebecca Luker came running down the mountain and burst into the title song..."The hills are alive with the Sound of Music." Talk about deja vu! You've been there, too, if you've seen the film. But it was more than that to me.
A year or so ago, I stood at the base of the mountains in Salzburg, Austria, where the movie was filmed, just taking in the scenic beauty; so ingrained in my mind was the film that I kept looking for Julie Andrews to appear from behind a tree. But I go way back with this musical. While in the Navy in the early 70's, I was stationed in Europe, and a friend was going home to America for a month on leave. He asked if I wanted anything brought back from the states. I said, "Yeah, get me the soundtrack to The Sound of Music". I listened to it over and over again. Why? Because I loved the score, the film and the original Broadway cast album.
But that was many years ago, and as time passed it seemed everyone loved to hate this show because of its "sugary" reputation, myself included. Oh, how wrong we were!
So, what do we find at the Martin Beck? Well, I'll tell you plain and simpl e. You'll find that the director, Susan H. Schulman, has pulled off the impossi ble by putting together a brilliant team of actors and crew in making this revival better, yes better, than the film! From set designer Heidi Ettinger to costumes by Catherine Zuber and even to Ashely Rose Orr as little Gretel, this production soars.
Set designer Ettinger has done a superb job with stunning sets reminiscent o f the gorgeous Alps, the Abbey and von Trapp's mansion. Stunning!
The cast is absolutely perfect. Rebecca Luker is simply sensational as Mari a, and I never thought it possible. I saw her in Showboat and never pictured her in this role, but, believe me, she is one captivating Maria with a wonderful voice and personality. Michael Siberry plays, in what I have always thought a droll role, Captain George von Trapp. Siberry is a joy to watch. His Austrian accent, his demeanor, his acting and his singing are all perfect.
Ah, those brats! Those seven kids... and I know what you're thinking. Stage kids...horrible, right? The only thing I could imagine to be horrible would be the task of the casting director in finding these kids. They are simply incredible, and not one of them overacts or is out of place. Someone petitioned that they be given a Tony Award as an ensemble, but it was turned down by the Tony committee. Too bad. These kids are great. But lest you think they are newcomers, you should read their bios. Most have acting credits on Broadway, television, films or commercials.
Patti Cohenour in the role of Mother Abbess is, well, heavenly. Her "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" with its glass shattering notes will stay with me for the rest of my life. And Fred Applegate is perfect casting as Max Detweiler, the man responsible for putting together the music festival in which the von Trapps make their escape from the Nazis. He exhibits solid comedic skills, making one think of Nathan Lane, only this one is Fred's role and he gives an A-1 performance.
Yes, I loved this show and quite a few times my eyes teared with this wonderful score and perfect book for a musical. It's Rodgers and Hammerstein at their best, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Any student of the musical theater must see this; it is craftsmanship the way it oughta be done. And this craftmanship truly deserves a very special standing ovation to Susan H. Schulman - for having the vision to bring together this brilliant ensemble for this revival. Second to her I must applaud Heidi Ettinger for her sets, for without them this production would not have soared. A special mention goes out to Michael Lichtefeld for his authentic choreography in the Austrian/German dances.
All in all, you can't go wrong with visiting this old friend. Don't believe the lies, whether they are in your brain or said by friends. The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the von Trapp family singers and whether or not you think it's a bit sweet, nothing could have been sweeter than a family of nine escaping from the Nazis over those hills, those hills alive with the sound of music.
The Sound of Music is a truly remarkable musical in this perfectly marvelous revival. How's that for a pull-quote? ; )
See you Thursday!
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