BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Shea's Buffalo Theatre
So many fans of the beloved film THE SOUND OF MUSIC are unaware that the blockbuster film with Julie Andrews was based on the 1959 Broadway stage musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for Mary Martin. While not an instant hit with theatre critics on opening night, the now cherished story of a young nun who becomes governess to a widowed Navy Captain and his seven children has become an icon of the musical theatre canon.
Now under the expert guidance of TONY Award winning Broadway director Jack O'Brien, THE SOUND OF MUSIC has been lovingly rethought. This sumptuous production has all the high quality production values you would find on a Broadway stage, and then some. Mr. O'Brien has brilliantly paid attention to every detail in the script and breathed new life into characters that have become etched into our minds. And kudos must be awarded for casting a new face in the the leading role, nearly eliminating any fleeting comparisons to Ms. Andrews.
The stage version also includes music that is not heard in the film, and quite honestly fleshes out the secondary characters more fully, especially Uncle Max and the Baroness Elsa. In addition, audiences who can recite the movie by rote will be in for a surprise as to where some of their favorite things are placed in the original script. Happily the 1959 script has been making a bit of a comeback, most recently in the NBC live production starring a miscast Carrie Underwood and now in this glorious new revival produced exclusively for the touring circuit. One would think that this Rodgers and Hammerstein chestnut would have been revived endlessly, but there has only been one Broadway revival since 1959, and that was not until 1998.
Newcomer Charlotte Maltby plays the young postulant Maria Rainer. Her portrayal is a revelation, full of gumption, awkwardness and self doubt. Her inherent love of music is highlighted to the fullest extent, causing one to take pause and rethink the underlying current of music's effects. With expert guidance from Mr. O'Brien, Ms Maltby's rendition of "DO, RE, MI" was fascinating - as if this well traveled tune was being written for the first time before our eyes. Her mini masterclass in music education blossomed into a wide eyed example of the children's first encounter with music and how they formed an immediate bond with their new governess. Maltby's naivete and inner child was refreshing, especially in her scenes with the Mother Abbess, played by Melody Betts. It was evident immediately that she was not cut out for the religious life.
Miss Betts sings gloriously with a lusty lower register that then blooms fully in the climaxes of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." This act I closer stopped the show appropriately, with O'Brien's quick pacing making the 1.5 hour first act sail.
Broadway veteran Merwyn Foard as Max hit all the right marks with his comedic timing, while Teri Hansen, as Baroness Elsa Schraeder was the imperious cool villainess. In their song "How Can Love Survive" and trio with the Captain, "No Way To Stop It" we get a glimpse into some more serious writing by Rodgers and Hammerstein, underlying the gravity of the political situation of the Nazi take over of Austria-- themes that were watered down and often eliminated from the movie.
Christopher Carl stepped into the role of Captain von Trapp as understudy on opening night. He did noble work, highlighting the obvious age difference between himself and Maria, which was true to real life. The only modification from the 1959 version was the elimination of the song "An Ordinary Couple," replaced by the movie's tune of "Something Good." This production employed new lyrics, eliminating the troublesome mention of Maria's possible "wicked childhood." Mr. Carl's rendition of "Edelweiss" in front of the Nazi flags was heart felt and is delivered at a pivotal point in the plot, underscoring his love of country being destroyed by the Nazi's power.
The seven children were each given unique personalities, as detailed in Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's script, but more fully fleshed out. Paige Silvester is the eldest child, Liesl, who sings "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with the delivery boy Rolf (Austin Colby). The chemistry between the two was palpable, in a way that only teenagers can embody awkward first love.
Scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt was elegant and eased scene changes by gliding panels and flying set pieces. The finale scene was breath taking as the family ascends the alps with a slowly descending front curtain. Costumes by TONY Award winning designer Jane Greenwood were spot on in evoking the style of the era.
With limited seats still available, this new production leaves the audience on a fulfilling high. THE SOUND OF MUSIC's popularity almost 60 years after it's opening ensures that this heart felt story will always be beloved-- especially if future directors give it as much loving care and attention as Mr. O'Brien.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs from March 28 through April 2 as part of a North American Tour, at Shea's Buffalo Theatre, presented by Shea's Performing Arts Center and Albert Nocciolino. Please call 1-800-745-3000, visit ticketmaster.com, or the Shea's Box Office. For more information, please visit www.sheas.org or www.TheSoundOfMusicOnTour.com.
There will be eight performances: Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 pm. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. A post-show Audience Talk Back with the Cast will be on Wednesday, March 29.