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Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Music Hall At Fair Park

I think it's safe to say that everyone, by now, has heard that the hills are alive with THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The Broadway musical, which starred Mary Martin in 1959 (and Julie Andrews on film six years later), is easily one of the most familiar titles in the musical theater catalog. With family audiences fawning over more contemporary classics like WICKED, THE LION KING and MATILDA, bringing back an old chestnut comes with a risk.

So, how do you solve a problem like Maria, the Austrian governess whose story has been sung all over the world for the past 56 years? The answer is surprising simple! For the 2015 US tour, currently onstage at Music Hall at Fair Park, director Jack O'Brien dug deep into the Sound of Music trunk, hired new, fresh-faces to infuse energy to the principal roles, and wove the many songs and scenes into a seamless, revitalized tapestry. The result is simply magical.

In a star-making performance, Pace University sophomore Kerstin Anderson's infectious energy makes Maria Rainer's every moment fresh and new. Her lovely soprano voice soars throughout the show, as she breaths new life into the twelve songs she expertly performs. Anderson has the unique ability to form deep connections with all the characters on stage, extending that connection out to each of the 2,000 seats in the hall. Anderson's youthful approach to the role is especially exciting in her fresh relationship with the Von Trapp children, with whom she engages with as a charming "big sister."

Opposite Ms. Anderson is the dreamy Ben Davis as Captain Von Trapp. Like Anderson, Mr. Davis appears young for his role, a casting change that amplifies the pain he feels over his late wife as much as it calls attention to the struggle he has in connecting with his children. His rich voice soars on the heart-wrenching Act Two ballad "Edelweiss". Davis and Anderson are the perfect pair, complimenting each other's every moment.

Ben Davis, Kerstin Anderson and Ashley Brown

Keeping the theme of fresh and new casting, Ashley Brown is practically perfect as The Mother Abbess, a role she has complexly reinvented. With only a minor age gap between Mother Abbess and Maria, Brown's interpretation of the role puts the women on the same level, creating a loving, warm energy between the two. Brown's captivating voice fills the theatre in "Climb Every Mountain", which is impressively contrasted by her playful "My Favorite Things," a duet she charmingly shares with Anderson.

With access to the many songs and scripts written for THE SOUND OF MUSIC productions, this new version is occasionally a connect-the-dots of the top twenty-five songs written for the show by Rodgers and Hammerstein. While this allows endless opportunities for the singing actors to shine, a few moments move more quickly than expected. For example, Captain Von Trapp's acceptance of Maria seems rushed, and his children have only a few moments where they do anything but park-and-bark their infamous tunes (each with a powerful, mature voice). The show would benefit from cutting some unnecessary songs for the supporting characters, such as "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way To Stop It" in order to allow some additional plot development.

Fans of both the movie and original stage productions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC are sure to find the same heart and joy that has given this classic life for more than half a century.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC continues at Music Hall at Fair Park through November 22nd, 2015. Tickets are available online at www.DallasSummerMusicals.com or by calling 1-800-514-ETIX. Fort Worth audiences will enjoy the tour in August of 2016 at Bass Performance Hall.

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Cast members of the production will also be performing in a benefit concert for Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids on Monday, November 9th at 7:30 PM at Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie. More information is available here.



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From This Author - Kyle West

Kyle Christopher West is obsessed with the arts. Growing up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Kyle trained as a gymnast and dancer where he performed across the East Coast in productions of West Side Sto... (read more about this author)


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