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Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL

Production runs through June 5

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC  at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire IL

The moment you walk into the theatre and see the "mountains" surrounding the back walls you know exactly where you are and that you need to be here.

The current production of The Sound of Music at the Marriott in Lincolnshire will fill your heart not only with music but also gratitude to Rodgers and Hammerstein for finishing their last collaboration. Oscar had passed several years before the movie hit theaters. With that being said, I have always loved the original stage version because of its truth about the invasion of Austria and Captain Von Trapp's love of his homeland. Even after being threatened in his home by 2 Third Reich visitors ("you know what we can do to you") he will not be a part of it. Erik Hellman, in his Marriott debut (most of the cast as well) as Captain Georg von Trapp, gives a very poignant portrayal of the Captain. His emotional journey through the story is very moving.

The Sound of Music does not have an overture. It begins with the nuns' chorus leading to the moment we meet Maria Rainer. Addie Morales' portrayal of Maria keeps you smiling throughout the entire performance. Her rendition of the title song is one of many goosebump moments. We next meet the 4 principal nuns discussing which postulants and novices should stay or go from the Abbey. The Mother Abbess (Daniella Dalli), Sister Berthe (Susan Moniz), Sister Margaretta (Lydia Burke) and Sister Sophia (Ana Silva) are divided on Maria, which leads to How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. Their voices and harmonies blend perfectly!! The Mother Abbess then tells Maria she will be going to the von Trapp household. Maria is terrified and The Mother calms her nerves by singing My Favorite Things with her and sends her on her way.

Before Maria arrives, the children are told about their new governess. This group of talented young actors is a joy to watch. Watching their interaction you feel they are related.

When Maria arrives, they are not sure what to think about her. Maria stands up to the Captain about using a whistle and he in turn hastily leaves the room. Maria immediately teaches the children to sing. This is one of those moments in musical theater everyone waits for. As the cast leaves the stage to march around the stage singing Do Re Mi the audience applauded and clapped along. Shortly after Liesl (16 year old Campbell Krausen with a wonderful smile and beautiful voice) meets young Rolf Gruber (Emmet Smith giving a shining performance) who is delivering a telegram. They are typical teenagers: wanting to be grown up but not sure if they are ready for it. This is a lovely scene with wonderful interaction. A thunderstorm has begun and Liesl sneaks into Maria's bedroom with no luck. As the thunderstorm gets louder all the children run to Maria for safety. She entertains them with the Lonely Goatherd.

The Captain brings 2 guests to the villa, Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Heidi Kettenring giving one of the best Elsa performances) and Max Detweiler (Rob Lindley thoroughly believable and entertaining). Max asks Elsa if she has convinced the Captain to marry her and she states she has. Side note: there are 2 songs in the original stage production that were deleted from the movie: How Can Love Survive and No Way to Stop It. The first song is sung by Elsa and Max and the second by Max, Elsa and the Captain regarding the invasion of Austria and that one must accept it.

The Captain throws a party for Elsa to meet his friends. The Captain and Maria show the children how to dance the Laendler. Maria finds herself flustered and stops dancing. Brigitta (Omi Lichtenstein) tells her she is flushed. As the children say goodnight to the guests, Maria decides to leave and runs back to the Abbey and safety. This is where Mother Abbess tells Maria she must go back and face her fears. Climb Every Mountain ends Act 1 leaving the audience breathless.

Act II begins with the Captain informing the children he will marry Elsa. The children are seated around a table and their expressions and reactions to this news are priceless with eye rolling, slumping in chairs and putting one's head down on the table. When Maria returns, the children tell her about the upcoming marriage. There is also a quarrel going on between the Captain, Elsa and Max over the Nazi invasion of Austria. The Captain is prepared to stand up to the Nazis and defy them but he discovers Elsa is unwilling to take such a risk because she could lose her comfortable position - she inherited her husband's money and businesses. Max has no leaning one way or the other - he will go where the money is. This is the reason the Captain and Elsa do not marry. This is a very intense scene. The audience is taken to a very different place in this one scene. Maria has entered the room at this point to congratulate the couple but Elsa is on her way out. Maria apologizes to the Captain. This is the moment when the discussion begins about the feelings between the Captain and Maria which lead to their marriage. While they are on their honeymoon, Max wants the children to sing at the festival he is in charge of. During this conversation two Nazis come to the villa to see why the Captain is not flying the Nazi flag - a disturbing scene but well acted. When Maria and the Captain arrive home, again they are visited by the Nazis instructing the Captain to go to Bremerhaven to become the commander of a ship. Maria is able to diffuse the situation by saying they are all performing at the festival and would not be able to leave until after the festival. As the lights come up on the festival, at each corner of the theater (not the stage) is an actor in a Nazi uniform with a red light shining down. Very powerful. As the Captain is singing Edelweiss, he is overcome with emotion. Maria helps him and then he moves to the center of the stage with his guitar and asks us (the audience) to sing with him. We are the audience for the concert. After the family leaves the concert and ends up at the Abbey in the flower garden, the Nazis - including Rolf - begin the search. Rolf sees them, points a gun at them, then stops. He yells to the others that there is no one in the flower garden and he leaves. The family decides to flee Austria over the mountains. As the nuns are reprising Climb Every Mountain, the Captain and Maria (now in an aisle of the theater) turn and wave farewell.

I loved this production. Under Nick Bowling's direction, the audience is taken back to a different time immediately. The minimal set design by Collette Pollard was absolutely perfect! Sally Dolembo's costume designs, especially the children's curtain clothes, were airy and colorful. The evening attire designs were very much the time period. Patti Garwood and the orchestra filled the theater with a lushness of that timeless score. I know that anyone who sees the stage production will be comparing it with the movie. The stage version deals with the Nazi invasion in greater detail. It is a huge part of the story. It is also happening again in our world. Dick and Oscar never ran away from an ugly truth. They made their audience think. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway in 1959 - 14 years after the World War. This was Dick and Oscar's last collaboration. Oscar died in 1960 at the age of 65. His last lyric? "Edelweiss - bless my homeland forever". Marriott has preserved the original story - warts and all - for us to appreciate and to again give thanks for the incredible duo that is Dick and Oscar.

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