How do you solve a problem like … presenting one of the most beloved musicals of stage and screen in an original way, while staying true to the characters and melodies that made it famous?
I’m no expert – just a fan of good shows – but it seemed to me the solution to the problem was right there on the Morsani Hall stage Tuesday at the Straz Center. Director Jack O’Brien’s national tour of this new version of The Sound of Music was every bit as enchanting as the Julie Andrews film we children of the ‘70s grew up with through occasional holiday re-runs.
Because I readily admit I’m no impresario, I dutifully direct your attention to the L.A. Times review of the tour’s Opening Night this past fall: The Sound of Music … is Fresh and Lively. The critic Margaret Gray did a nice job capturing the nuance and liveliness of the show’s premier, and her words summed up the technical aspects of the slightly more polished version we saw on Tuesday in Tampa.
I will say that, like Gray, I found the rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” by Ashley Brown (the Mother Abbess) to be the most stirring moment of the show. The entire cast, including Kirsten Anderson as Maria, Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp, and all seven von Trapp kids, nailed every one of the familiar and much-loved tunes.
What I can relate here is how this theater experience registered with me emotionally. And really, isn’t that why most of us go to the theater, to be moved by story and song?
As I mentioned earlier, the movie version of the Sound of Music was part of my childhood. It was first broadcast on TV in 1976, then became an annual holiday staple on NBC in 1979. As each of the well-known songs played out Tuesday over a slightly unfamiliar – but still charming – plot line, I found myself sinking into the memory of staying up late to watch the movie.
Watching it as a kid, I remember being drawn (naturally) to the children in the cast. I could identify with the boys, of course, but I also remember being stirred by the teenaged Liesl’s desperation to break free of the childish bonds of adolescence.
Interestingly, this stage version’s more-compressed plot and streamlined character development was even better than the film, I thought, at presenting the conflict between duty – or society’s imposed expectations – and the internal longing to fulfill one’s true nature.
It was presented clearly for Maria, a nun-in-waiting who clearly was meant for family life; it was there for the captain, a widower and former Austrian naval hero who didn’t even know he sought love until he found it in Maria’s eyes; it was there for the entire von Trapp family when the Nazis came to Austria and the captain had to choose between falling into line as an office of the German navy, or risking the wrath of the Third Reich.
I found myself engrossed in the story while also enjoying the nostalgic pangs triggered by those great Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.
I also found myself wishing our sons, 10 and 7, were with us Tuesday night. I could only imagine the big smiles on their faces as professional debutante Audrey Bennet (Gretl) and her stage brothers and sisters absolutely rocked numbers like “So Long, Farewell” and “Do-Re-Mi.”
Next time. They’re sure to love it.
Below is a brief video montage of the Sound of Music on tour, which is at the Straz Center through Sunday, Dec. 27. For information and tickets, follow this link to the Straz Center box office.
Tampa Bay Bloggers was provided two tickets to Tuesday’s premier of the Sound of Music on Tour for review purposes.