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BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at BROWARD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at BROWARD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

Beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein Musical Comes to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts!

Pictured: Jill-Christine Wiley and the Von Trapp Children/Photo By: Matthew Murphy

NETworks Presentations LLC presents The Sound of Music, featuring music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The musical was adapted into an Academy Award winning film in 1965 starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It is this beloved film version that is firmly and fondly remembered by many. Several songs from the musical have become familiar standards, including "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things," "Climb Every Mountain," Do-Re-Mi" and the title song. The Sound of Music understandably remains one of America's favorite family musicals.

Set in Salzburg, Austria, just before World War II, The Sound of Music is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." The Sound of Music tells the story of religious postulant Maria Rainer (Jill-Christine Wiley), who is sent by the Mother Abbess (Lauren Kidwell) of Nonnberg Abbey to be governess to the seven children of wealthy widower Captain Von Trapp (Mike McLean). The Captain is a proud Austrian and military man unprepared to bow to the Nazi regime despite the advice he receives to "be wise-compromise" by his best friend and opportunist Max (Jake Mills). Meanwhile, the Captain is contemplating marriage to a beautiful widow and businesswoman, Elsa Von Schraeder (Melissa McKamie), though they perhaps do not agree on the implications of the changing political climate.

Maria discovers that the Captain rules his home like a battleship, and his children like soldiers. Her infectious good nature, open heart, and love of music warm the cold nature of the Von Trapp household. She quickly grows to love the children, and they her. When it seems the Captain is drawn to Maria as well, she must weigh the feelings that he awakens inside of her that would perhaps point to a life outside of the convent.

From the first note she sings, it is clear that Jill-Christine Wiley, as Maria, has a contemporary take on the role musically. Her voice sounds like the young voice of a Disney channel singer. It is pretty, but bright and broad and forward. I longed for the Signature Sound or stylist traces of a real Rodgers and Hammerstein singer from days gone by like Barbara Cook or Shirley Jones, but nary a portamento was to be found. Her acting and energy serve the role well however, and she does have a good rapport with the children. When Captain Von Trapp entered, I thought perhaps Wiley had intentionally chosen to sing with a less mature sound so as to appear younger than he. In this case the actor playing the Captain, Mike McLean, looks to be 28-31 years old with some grey thrown on his temples. Handsome and assured, he has moments that are just right for the part, but it is one he should be playing 10 -15 years from now. I liked both McLean and Wiley separately, but they don't seem to be able to create any sexual/romantic tension between them or gives us that moment of magic realization of how they feel about one another.

Melissa McKamie as Elsa is particularly lovely in her fashionable traveling suits and elegant evening gowns. Her character remains the pragmatic and emotionally detached businesswoman. We do not dislike her, but we cannot like her either as she is Maria's competition for the Captain. McKamie wrongly underplays that feeling of sensing Maria as her competition. She is paired with her sometime cohort Max (Jake Mills) as the two plot to save their hides in the face of Nazi occupation. Mills captures some of the likable though selfish character of the privileged Max who largely lives off of the generosity of his more affluent friends. But he misses some of the comic timing written in the asides through his delivery. He also doesn't go anywhere with his character, who should feel remorse for his actions, or concern for his friends the Von Trapps at the end of the show. McKamie and Mills both have strong, clear singing voices that are a pleasure to listen to in "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way To Stop It".

Those religious songs performed in Latin such as "Preludium" and "Confitemini Domino," are beautifully sung by the chorus of nuns, though in fact they should be sung with little to no vibrato to be stylistically correct. Lauren Kidwell turns in a mature performance as The Mother Abbess, and does a fine job singing the iconic "Climb Every Mountain" at the end of Act 1.

The musical numbers and book scenes containing the von Trapp children are all charmingly well done. Their polished performances are one of the genuine treasures of this production. In a scene that can sometimes be so trite, I totally enjoyed Chad P. Campbell as Rolf and Keslie Ward as Liesl in "Sixteen Going On Seventeen". They have the right feel for their characters, the right chemistry with one another, and seem to have been very well directed. I found myself smiling through the whole number.

The scenic and costume design for this production is attractive without being lavish, and lighting and sound is generally good, though the actress playing the housekeeper was plagued by a bad mic in two scenes on the night attended. A pit of live musicians plays the show beautifully, and the ensemble sound is solid. Perhaps because this is a non-Equity tour there is some unevenness in the cast, with some of the actors definitely less comfortable and polished on stage. In addition, there are some awkward staging/acting moments evident in unmotivated crosses, fuzzy acting beats, and missed laughs. Coming in at just under three full hours, the show also feels in need of a bit of tightening. It is always a pleasure to see this musical, and there are many good things about this Networks production. It is just in need of some fine tuning to elevate it to the status it deserves.

Together, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Cinderella, State Fair, Flower Drum Song, Me And Juliet, Allegro and Pipe Dream. Among the many accolades they received are thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize and two Grammy Awards. While the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein have been described by some as antiquated and lacking in appeal to the contemporary audience, it should be noted that they not only wrote memorable melodies and poetic lyrics, but fearlessly addressed topics over fifty years ago that are controversial even by today's standards-domestic violence in Carousel, racism in South Pacific, and the atrocities of the Nazi regime in The Sound of Music-well before these themes were being addressed by their contemporaries in musical form.

The original Broadway production of The Sound of Music, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959 (moving to the Mark Hellinger Theatre on November 6, 1962), and closed on June 15, 1963, after 1,443 performances. The production tied with Fiorello! for the Tony Award for Best Musical that year. Other awards it received include Best Actress in a Musical (Mary Martin as Maria), Best Featured Actress (Patricia Neway as the Mother Abbess), Best Scenic Design and Best Musical Direction. The entire children's cast was nominated in the Best Featured Actress category as a single nominee, even though two children were boys. A Broadway revival of The Sound of Music opened on March 12, 1998, at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it ran for 15 months.

This NETworks Presentations production of The Sound of Music will be appearing through October 22, 2017, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Performances are usually Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 1 pm. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Presentations at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support is also contributed by the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Performing Arts Center Authority, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and The Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau. For information on any of the offerings of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts you may contact them by phone at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org.

Cast:
Maria: Jill-Christine Wiley
Captain Georg Von Trapp: Mike McLean
Mother Abbess: Lauren Kidwell

Sister Berthe: Danielle Lee James

Sister Margaretta: Allison Macri

Sister Sophia: Melissa Weyn
Elsa Von Schraeder: Melissa McKamie

Max Detweiler: Jake Mills
Frau Schmidt (Housekeeper): Stephanie Gray
Franz (Butler): Isaac Ryckeghem
Rolph Gruber: Chad P. Campbell

Herr Zeller: Adam Ross Glickman

Baron Elberfeld: Randy Charleville
Baroness Elberfeld: Ariana Valdes

Ursula/Postulant: Sarah Brackett

Admiral von Schreiber: Jeff Brooks

Von Trapp Children:

Liesl: Keslie Ward
Friedrich: Landon Brimacombe
Louisa: Maya Karp
Kurt: Arick Brooks
Brigitta: Katie Grgecic
Marta: Amaryllis C. Miller
Gretl: Madeleine Guilbot
Ensemble: Caleb Adams, Colten Blair, Sarah Brackett, Jeff Brooks, Randy Charleville, Mackenzie Dade, Adam Ross Glickman, Stephanie Gray, Danielle Lee James, Allison Macri, Isaac Ryckeghem, Annie Sherman, Arian Valdes, Melisa Weyn

Crew:
Direction: Matt Lenz

Music Director: Michael Uselmann
Choreography: Danny Mefford
Scenic Design: Douglas W. Schmidt
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Shannon Slaton
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Hair and Wig Design: Bernie Ardia
Production Stage Manager: Jess Gouker



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From This Author John Lariviere