BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC Soars At ASU Gammage
Musical theatre is a business. Beyond the flashing lights, the line of girls kicking their feet to their face, the soaring high A's--musical theatre heavily relies on the name value of a show and how well their particular product sells, oftentimes sacrificing art in the process. Popular shows have the potential to be rehashed and predictable in their various renditions, with the same direction and acting choices left behind by predecessors.
However, this national tour of The Sound of Music, is delightfully delectable, and most importantly different. Rodger and Hammerstein's much-loved The Sound of Music is the tale of postulant Maria who is hired as a governess for the militaristic Von Trapp family. The movie portrayal starring Julie Andrews leaves big expectations looming over the cast and crew, yet amidst huge pressure this production shines.
Director Jack O'Brien is a visionary. Even under the immense pressure the name The Sound of Music bears, O'Brien does not resort to rehashed directional choices, rather he takes well-known lines and shapes them into scenes entirely refreshing and seemingly spontaneous. The characters seem genuine in their decision-making, and moments, such as the passionate kiss scenes, are absolutely picturesque with Douglas W. Schmidt's phenomenal set design and Natasha Katz's stirring light design. However, perhaps the greatest scene in this production is the most uncomfortable one (SPOILERS AHEAD)--the Von Trapp family performance after the Germans take over Austria is jarring, and the juxtaposition of the innocence of the children against the backdrop of the Nazi flags fills the room with a palpable tension, as we, the audience, become part of the story.
As Maria, Kerstin Anderson has huge shoes to fill, yet does not disappoint in her rendition. Anderson has a gorgeous lifting voice and plays Maria as a youthful, sometimes immature, young governess whose heart and determination win over the Von Trapp family. Anderson's vocal inflection is playful, and her physicalization of Maria girlishly awkward, yet entirely fitting. Anderson's Maria is extremely endearing, and displays a motherly maturity when dealing with the Von Trapp children.
Ben Davis as Captain Von Trapp is absolutely phenomenal. His portrayal of Captain is incredibly sincere, and his emotional subtext and the maturity in his acting is evident. His character development--though due to the writing has the potential to be--is not rushed, and seems realistic.
Melody Betts as The Mother Abbess is a treasure, playing as Anderson's Maria's equal, rather than her superior or authoritative figure. The Act One finale, "Climb Every Mountain" soars throughout the Gammage Auditorium, and leaves the audience craving the second act.
The Von Trapp children are incredibly talented. In particular, Iris Davies as the astute Brigitta possesses hilarious spunk, and Paige Silvester as Liesl shares fantastic chemistry with Austin Colby as telegram delivery boy Rolf. Teri Hansen as Elsa and Merwin Foard as Max are surprisingly likeable, and have the audience sympathizing with them and the difficult choices they are forced to make for self-preservation.
The national tour of The Sound of Music is an incredible show with a wonderfully talented cast and crew. The show does not seem stale, and is satisfyingly fresh. At no point does the production seems rehashed--it is an original in its own right, and something that must be seen for old and new fans alike.
The Sound of Music continues its run at ASU Gammage through October 23. Tickets are available at the ASU Gammage Box Office 1200 S. Forest Ave., or by visiting ticketmaster.com, asugammage.com, or by calling 1-800-982-2787.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy