The hills are still alive with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Have you seen The Sound of Music on tour? Share your thoughts on the show in the comments section below.

Fifty-six years ago, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaborated one last time on what would become one of the most beloved musicals of all time, The Sound of Music. And celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, the film version is a perennial television event, and has become a favorite at special sing-along screenings.

And with the score Rodgers & Hammerstein produced, it’s not hard to see why the show has such a strong following, with the classic title song, “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things” and “Edelweiss” among them. But there has to be a gripping story to go along with the songs, and the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse is a love story for the ages.

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Based on the true story of the Von Trapp family living in Austria at the dawn of the rise of Nazi Germany, we first meet young postulant Maria enjoying a day in the mountains before returning to the Abbey. The Mother Abbess and the other nuns can obviously see Maria is not really cut out to be a nun, so she is placed with the Von Trapps as a governess for the seven children, whose mother had died several years earlier. The father, Captain Von Trapp, runs a tight ship at sea and at home … when he’s there … but Maria brings joy back into the childrens’ lives. The Captain is planning to marry Frauline Schräder, but after an impromptu dance at a party, he and Maria both realize there is something more there besides a professional relationship.

So what does Maria do? Runs back to the Abbey without saying goodbye, leaving the Von Trapps to wonder why. But the Mother Abbess tells Maria the love of a man is just as important as the love of God, so she returns to the family and gets the news that the Captain is about to marry. Can Maria’s return make him reconsider? Or will the Nazis force the Captain to join the Navy, leaving his family for months but with the knowledge that they will be safe? Well, I think we all know how this story ends.

The new touring production of The Sound of Music is quite the lavish affair with some beautiful sets and wonderful costume and lighting design. The set changes in particular are fast and smooth, easily transforming the stage from the dark Abbey to the colorful Von Trapp home in seconds. It really is amazing how these things can change so quickly and take you to another place in the blink of an eye. My hat is off to the entire production crew who makes all of this work flawlessly.

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

The cast is nothing short of terrific. Kerstin Anderson is perfect as Maria, giving the character real growth as the show progresses. We meet her as a young woman, very inexperienced in the world, who thinks she belongs at the Abbey. With the Von Trapp children she comes out of her shell (and breaks them out of their shells as well), and then matures into a woman devoted to keeping her family together. It is a wonderful performance and Anderson also has a powerful voice to deliver all of those classic songs (and it is quite amazing just how many of those songs are so familiar).

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Ben Davis gives Captain Von Trapp a certain stoic, rigid quality when we first meet him, very strict with his children and staff — making them all answer to their own specific whistle tone — to cover the pain he still feels from the loss of his wife. But once Maria arrives and brings music back into the home, something he had forbidden because of the painful memories, his cold exterior begins to melt and he becomes the father the children had been missing, as well as having his heart open to love once again. Davis plays the role perfectly and he has a silky smooth voice that makes audiences melt as he sings the touching, beautiful “Edelweiss.”

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Supporting cast members Dan Tracy, Merwin Foard and Teri Hansen get their moments to shine, and Ashley Brown (who was the original Mary Poppins on Broadway) is terrific as the Mother Abbess, with the voice of an angel. Every show should have at least one show stopping number, and Brown gets to close out the first act with a powerful rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” that will give you goosebumps. If it hadn’t been at the end of Act One, the show certainly would have stopped for a few minutes because of the audience applause.

And we can’t forget the Von Trapp children. Each of the child actors are perfection, never missing a beat (not even the youngest who plays Gretl), with some of the purest voices you’ll ever hear. Who ever cast these children deserves an award not only for finding kids from all over the country who bear enough of a resemblance to each other to be actual siblings, but who can all sing and act in a truly professional manner. They really were some of the best child performers I have ever seen on stage, and they do eight shows a week without alternates.

The Sound of Music is a classic and most everyone is familiar with it either from various stage productions or the movie (or the live television production a couple of years ago). So why see yet another version of it? I think I gave plenty of reasons. The songs are classics, the production is gorgeous and the cast is simply amazing. It’s not very often that you get to see something click like this to make theatrical magic, but this touring production does just that.

The Sound of Music is currently in Baltimore at the Hippodrome Theatre through December 13 before heading to Knoxville, TN December 15-20. Other cities on the tour, currently scheduled through August, include Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Fort Myers, Columbus, Houston, Austin, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston, Ottowa, St. Louis, Detroit, Denver, Fort Worth and more! Visit the official website for tickets and more information.

On a side note: I had an opportunity to mingle with the cast after opening night in Baltimore, and I have to say they are a wonderful, down-to-earth group of people who obviously love what they’re doing, and are very humble when being praised for their performances. Even the kids are great. This company seems to get along like a real family and I think that helps sell their performances on stage. Just some lovely people.

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