By Daniel Skora
Before it became the blockbuster film that went on to win five academy awards including Best Picture in 1965, “The Sound of Music” was first conceived as a musical for the stage. The story of the von Trapp family opened on Broadway in 1959 and starred Mary Martin in the role of Maria, and though the film version is now thought by many to be where the excitement all began, its frequent revivals for the stage serve as a reminder of its roots in live theatre. A new North American Tour is currently making the rounds of U.S. cities and is in town for a two week engagement at the Fisher Theatre.
Any production of “The Sound of Music” worth its salt begins and ends with the role of Maria. In Kerstin Anderson the current production has an actress with the voice and the personality to carry the show. Anderson is a standout, not only because she’s a skosh taller and blonder than the Marias you may member, but because she knows how to vocalize a song. She turns in vibrant, heartfelt versions of “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and “The Sound of Music” and sparkles throughout in the role of the governess.
All of the songs in the beloved score by Rodgers and Hammerstein could provide, in fact, a spectacular show even without the musical’s storyline. Songs like “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, “Maria”, “So Long, Farewell”, and “Edelweiss” are not only easily recognizable but have lyrics that are generally known by most.
The production comes with a talented and appealing cast. Ben Davis plays the properly staid Captain Georg von Trapp, Melody Betts as the Mother Abbess contributes a stirring rendition of another of the show’s favorites, “Climb Every Mountain”, and Merwin Foard has a tendency to steal the show when he’s on stage as Uncle Max. Teri Hansen plays the soon-to-be ex-fiancée Elsa Schroeder, and the von Trapp children, Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl, are played, respectively, by Paige Silvester, Jeremy Michael Lanuti, Maria Suzanne Knasel, Austin Levine, Iris Davies, Kyla Carter, and Audrey Bennett. Others in the cast include Darren Matthias as the Butler Franz, Donna Garner as Frau Schmidt, and Dan Tracy as Rolf.
The show is directed by Jack O’Brien with book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Set design, by Douglas W. Schmidt, is as functional as it is eye-catching. The opening backdrop of the vast panorama of the Austrian countryside and the Alps looming in the distance nicely sets the stage for what’s to come. The darkling scenes in the monastery are punctuated with simulated stained glass, while the von Trapp home boasts a curved staircase and a chandelier befitting Versailles. Costumes are by Jane Greenwood, choreography by Danny Mefford, and music is under the supervision of Seth Wenig.
Fans of either the film or previous stage versions will like the current production. It’s delightfully entertaining and proof that the hills are still alive with the wonderful sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music.
“The Sound of Music” runs through May 22nd. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800.982.2787, online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com or www.ticketmaster.com, and at the Fisher Theatre box office either in person or by phone 313.872.1000. Additional information is available at www.facebook.com/The SoundofMusic.