Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The hills are alive, once again, with the “Sound of Music” courtesy of Playhouse Square

As a reviewer who often goes to the theatre three or four times a week, I’m often asked, “How can you see the same show time after time?”  It’s a good inquiry. 

Yes, seeing Tevya and his town folks “schlep” out of Anatevka in “Fiddler on the Roof,” yet once again, watching for the umpteenth time the final kick sequence of “Chorus Line,” pulling out a hankie while viewing as Maria kneels over his body because Tony just got done-in once again in “West Side Story,” and observing Joseph get sold off by his brothers to a bunch of Canaanites because his father bought him an amazing technicolor dreamcoat, may not seem like a productive way for a mature male to spend his time. 

But, hey, it’s my job, and my passion, so there I was in the fifth row of the Connor Palace, having a cute little blond girl sitting behind me say, “I love ‘The Sound of Music.’  I’ve seen the movie twice.  Have you seen it before?”

Yes, my lovely lass, I’m about to see Maria make her bedroom curtains into ugly clothes for the von Trapp kids, charm the lederhosen off their father, climb every mountain, fool the German army and hear the Mother Abbess sing one of my favorite lines in any musical, “How do you hold a moon beam in your hand?” for the umpteenth time.

For those who have spent all their time watching the Browns lose games, the Cavs win a championship, and the Indians almost go all the way, “The Sound of Music, unravels the tale of Maria, who wants to be a nun, but has too much spirit to keep her emotions under control.  A letter to the Abby prompts the Mother Superior to send Maria to be a governess for a widowed naval captain. She goes to the estate and finds that she is the latest in a long line of governesses run off by the children who wish to be loved, not disciplined.  Her exuberance wins over the children and their grieving father.  It’s just before World War II.  The duo marries, but their life is threatened by the Nazis taking over Austria, who give the Captain a commission in the German army which he refuses to take, and the family climbs every mountain as they escape to Switzerland. (And, incidentally come to the US, open a resort in Stowe, Vermont, and…but that’s another story!)
A traveling company of the “The Sound of Music,” with music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and based on the book, “The Trapp Family Singer” by Maria Augusta Trapp, is now in a short run at the Connor Palace.

And, though I can sing (not exactly on key), dance (ha) and recite (now, that I can do) every note and line after seeing them over and over, there are many for whom the script on stage is a new experience.  That’s why the theatre is nicely filled and the rest of the run has a good pre-sale.

To make things even better, this production is quite good.  Much better than the 2013 television with the miscast Carrie Underwood of “American Idol” fame as Maria.  While her vocal performance was praised, her acting performance was described as being "amateur," "lifeless" and” lacking emotion” by critics.

The same negatives cannot be said of the pretty, tall University of Michigan grad Charlotte Maltby, who creates a Maria who has spirit, charm and is totally delightful.  The actress’s slight hint of child-like awkwardness and a relaxed, well-trained voice adds to her being a perfect image of the Maria all fans of the show can love.

Though Nicholas Rodriguez has no physical resemblance of an austere Aryan, which is the accepted image for Captain Georg von Trapp, he has the charm and singing voice needed to be a match for Maltby’s Maria.

The kids are all charming, the supporting characters nicely conceived, the sets well enough put together to make the show look like a Broadway “wanna be” rather than a community theatre staging, and the orchestra is large enough to sound somewhat lush.

Capsule judgement:   The little girl sitting behind me was on the edge of her seat throughout the show and, at the end, sleepily said to her mother, “I loved it!” Yes, the touring production of “The Sound of Music,” is a very pleasant experience. “So long, Farewell,” How long will it be before I have to “Climb Every Mountain” again?  Guess as long as I’m a reviewer, “There is No Way to Stop It.”

Tickets for “The Sound of Music,” which runs through July 23, 2017 at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or by going to