BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC Enchants at The Landmark Theatre

BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC Enchants at The Landmark Theatre
Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer and the von Trapp Children in the current US National Tour of The Sound of Music. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The latest touring production enchanting audiences at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York is none other than Rodgers and Hammerstein's Tony Award-winning 1959 musical The Sound of Music. Purely breathtaking and nostalgic, it, of course, features favorite and familiar musical numbers such as "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Edelweiss," and "The Sound of Music," just to name of few. Richard Rodgers (Music) and Oscar Hammerstein II's (Lyrics) score features some of the most gorgeous and emotional songs in musical theater history and they are very well performed in this production.

Area theatergoers should be very familiar with the story and songs, no doubt. The musical, for which Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse provided the book, was later adapted for the screen. That 1965 film starring Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews is a beloved classic. Those whose previous exposure to the story and songs is limited to the movie may leave the theater thinking the musical is different than the movie. They are technically right. In the original musical, some of the musical numbers we know from the film are placed in different scenes and some characters react to certain situations differently, for example.

Fundamentally, however, the story - based on the real life Von Trapp Family Singers - is the same. Set in Austria just before World War II, we are introduced to Maria, a plucky girl who assumes the role of governess to Captain Von Trapp's seven children after being told she no longer has a place as a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey. Maria brings music back into the house. She falls in love with the children and eventually falls in love with their widowed father. While the mood is upbeat in the house, trouble is brewing outside. The German Navy insists that the family home must fly the flag of the Third Reich and the Captain must accept the offered commission in the German Navy. The Captain and the rest of the family are forever loyal Austrians and decide they will not submit to the Germans. With the nuns help, the Von Trapp family flees over the mountains to Switzerland.

The story is beautiful, and this touring production also benefits from wonderful technical elements and stellar acting and singing.

The touring production - directed by Matt Lenz with original direction by Jack O'Brien - features majestic scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt. Jane Greenwood's detailed and traditional costumes are everything one would expect for a production of this musical yet still fresh. The lighting by Natasha Katz captures the emotion of each scene. However, on the opening night there appeared to be a few missed cues and some shaky spotlights, but that will most likely be fixed as the run progresses. It was the first night in the new space for the tour.

A stellar cast, backed by an equally talented live orchestra under the musical direction of Michael Gildin, brings out the best of the score. The power and beauty of the musical numbers, especially the emotional "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and the intimate and meaningful "Edelweiss," made for a memorable theatergoing experience.

Speaking of Great Performances, Jill-Christine Wiley is truly enchanting as Maria. Her spunk, charm, effortless vocals, and expressive performance makes her ideal for the role. Her rendition of "The Sound of Music" is spellbinding and her interaction with the children on stage is perfection.

Mike McLean is perfectly cast as Captain Georg Von Trapp thanks to his stature, serious persona, and commanding presence. His onstage chemistry with Wiley makes "Something Good" a highlight. However, it is "Edelweiss" that is his truly standout moment - and really the standout moment of the entire production. As McLean sings, multiple Nazi flags hang behind him. The image is truly moving and he performs the song with just the right amount of power and passion.

Other strong performers include Lauren Kidwell as Mother Abbess. Her rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" showcases wonderful soprano vocals. She brings the house down with her powerful and emotional voice on this number and, along with Jill-Christine Wiley, sings a delightful duet of "My Favorite Things." Ariana Valdes as Sister Berthe, Teresea Whitt as Sister Margaretta, and Elaine Cotter as Sister Sophia shine along with Lauren Kidwell on the catchy tune "Maria."

Additionally, Lauren O'Brien charms as the eldest Von Trapp child Liesl with her wide-eyed expressions and beautiful vocals. O'Brien, along with Hunter Brown as Rolf, delivers a delightful performance of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."

Kate Turner is confident and bold in the role of Elsa Schrader. She plays off Jake Mills, portraying the full- of-himself Max Detweiler, perfectly. The two are highly memorable scene stealers thanks to their witty line delivery. Their rendition of "How Can Love Survive" showcases considerable comedic chops.

Naturally, the youngest cast members in the roles of the Von Trapp children also steal the spotlight with the adorable musical numbers such as "So Long, Farewell," "Do-Re-Mi," and "The Lonely Goatherd." Edward Turner as Friedrich, Jenna Seasholtz as Louisa, Henry Fin Berry as the understudy for Kurt, Emily Strugatsky as Brigitta, Riley O'Kane as Marta, and Quinn Eden Titcomb as Gretl all have their time in the spotlight and certainly make the most of it.

The rest of the supporting cast shine in the many ensemble musical numbers. "Confitemini Domino" is a particularly beautiful and captivating number.

The stellar cast with their beautiful and effortless vocals and intoxicating chemistry, as well as the mesmerizing scenic design, make this one of the best productions that has graced the stage at the Landmark Theatre in a very long time. This is one of those musicals that if you get a chance to see it, it is a definite must-see. This astounding touring production does not disappoint.

Running time: Two hours and forty-five minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.

The Sound of Music runs through December 16, 2018 at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York as part of the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse. For tickets and information, click here. For tickets and information about upcoming Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse productions, click here.

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From This Author Natasha Ashley