BWW Review: NOT One Of My Favorite Things! THE SOUND OF MUSIC Misses The Emotional Mark At The McCallum
Everyone deserves to see a great production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in their lifetime. Those who attended the Jack O'Brien production last night at The McCallum, who have never seen one before, are still waiting. It is a gorgeous, lavish production. The sets and costumes are beyond incredible. The voices are incredible as well. And, if you were just looking at photo stills from the production, or perhaps listening to the cast recording, you might think you had reached Rodgers and Hammerstein Nirvana. However, this production lacked the two things essential to this beautiful story - honesty and any real sense of emotion. It was as cold as the Alps!! (I though long and hard about writing a negative review over Thanksgiving break - because, in particular, I didn't want to do any damage to The McCallum box office! However, I was assured the musical is sold out for the balance of the run - so no damage done - just calling it like I see it!)
Jack O'Brien's SOUND OF MUSIC is the epitome of why many people hate musicals. It is cloying and dishonest in any realm of true feeling. It should have been called "THE SOUND OF MUSIC- THE SITCOM!" because it is directed like an episode of The Brady Bunch - where everyone is very likable but it is impossible to feel anything but surface emotion for them. There is no one in this stellar cast to CARE anything about. Maria is perky and energetic, but delivers every line with a rise of inflection at the end of the phrase which borders between "yiddish", a question - or an obvious reach for a joke. Her relationship with the children is unbelievable. It is all smiles and shtick. Even the children (all very talented) are reduced to "bits" to cajole laughter from the audience - when the show was already brilliantly constructed by the authors to evoke honest love and joy and laughter. This SOUND OF MUSIC is void of anything truthful. No relationship works. There are no real sparks between The Captain and Maria -- their relationship is as false as the proscenium. Rolf comes off like a thirty year old man, not the 19 year old boy on the verge of BECOMING a man. (Gorgeous voice -- just feels like he was placed in the wrong scene). Everything is played way too broadly,. I understand it needs to reach to the back of the house -- but TRUTH can!!!
The cast is incredibly talented. Every vocal turn was spot on - except for the lack of humanity. If I closed my eyes I was able to invent the honesty that I found nowhere on the stage. By the way - I always eavesdrop on the crowd at intermission and after the show to get a "feel for the room" and to see how far off my opinion might be from the crowd. But this was the general concensus of the masses. Their reactions to the show were as cold AS the show. "Nice" was about the highest compliment - and that's not enough.
And the staging!! All I could ask myself was "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Too Much Movement?". The cast moved about the stage in almost a frenetic fashion - every other line someone walked around a chair, across the stage, around a table and up to the french doors and back. During more than one number I began counting how many measures would go by before a new "pattern" would emerge amongst the actors - generally no more than eight bars before another move. It was dizzying and unnecessary and took me out of the story over and over again. For goodness sake, trust the actors, trust the songs, trust the story and just stand still and deliver!! Every picture was perfect! Every movement was beautiful - but the production chose staging over substance. More than once my mind called out for Bartlett Sher to intervene!!! Trust Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to deliver what no sitcom relationships and frenetic staging can do!!
It is not a BAD evening in the theatre. Is is eye candy from the first curtain. And it is a lovely way to spend some time with family over the holidays. The score never fails!
This Thanksgiving I give special thanks to the incomparable Mitch Gerschenfeld and the McCallum Theatre for bringing desert audiences an eclectic, high quality, top-notch season of musical and dramatic works, season after season. I have such high praise for this wonderful man and stellar organization, and the generous donors who make these things possible for the entire community. But some shows are hits and some are misses. The SOUND OF MUSIC totally missed the mark for me. I may have to tune in to Nick At Night or TV Land to find a little more depth and natural, human emotion.
For more information about upcoming concerts or theatrical productions at The McCallum Theatre, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com