Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Sound of Music

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard

Sound of Music tour

When the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music opened on Broadway in 1959, perennial ingĂ©nue Mary Martin, who originated the role of Maria and got a Tony Award for it, was pushing 50. When director Jack O’Brien conceived the current touring production of the much-seen, beloved musical, he envisioned and cast Kerstin Anderson, a woman half Martin’s age, who had just completed her sophomore year in college. Anderson’s name and bio still appear in the program, indicating she may still be playing the role in the tour, but not in San Diego, where it was played by understudy Anna Mintzer the night I saw the show (November 16), which continues through Sunday at the Civic Theatre.

The musical is set in Salzburg, Austria, just prior to the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938.

As you may recall, the unruly Maria, a postulant at Nonnberg Abbey, is sent by the Mother Abbess to become governess to the children of Georg Von Trapp (tour original Ben Davis), ultimately falls in love with him, and escapes the oncoming Nazi nastiness, along with von Trapp and the kiddies, by climbing the alps “(Climb Ev’ry Mountain”) and ultimately winding up in America. 

As for the touring company in San Diego, where O’Brien was longtime artistic director at the Old Globe: It’s not that Mintzer is bad; it’s just that I had looked forward to hearing the highly praised Anderson. If reviews are any indication, Mintzer adopts some of the O’Brien imbued charm and naivetĂ© that set Anderson apart at half Martin’s age. Exceptionally tall (she dwarfs Melody Betts as Mother Abbess, who steals the show with sheer volume in “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”), Mintzer is nimble of foot and bubbling with enthusiasm as she teaches the seven, orphaned von Trapp children to sing and dance (“Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things”). Her voice, though not rich in timbre, is adequate. As is seemingly built into the role, Davis comes across as rather starchy, but he has a lovely voice, employed in various ensembles including “Edelweiss.” In addition to Leisl, the children are Roy Gantz, Ashley Brooke, Austin Levine, Iris Davis, Kyla Carter and Anika Lore Hatch as the adorable, scene stealing youngest moppet.

Ben Davis as Capt. Von Trapp
Photo Matthew Murphy
In addition to Davis, Darren Matthias (Franz, the Butler), Donna Garner (Frau Schmidt, the Housekeeper), Paige Silvester (the eldest child, Liesl), Teri Hansen (Elsa Schraeder), Merwin Foard (Max Detweiler) and Christopher Carl (Admiral von Schreiber) portray the roles they originated in the tour. Austin Colby, originally an ensemble member, portrays Rolf, who is sweet on Liesl (“Sixteen Going on Seventeen”). Their song and dance number is memorable.

Paige Silvester as Liesl and Austin Colby as Rolf
Photo Matthew Murphy

The score is a reminder of what the American musical used to be, with the title song, “Maria,” “So Long, Farewell” and “Something Good” additional standouts. The touring production is also enhanced by Douglas W. Schmidt’s opulent yet utilitarian scenic design, Jane Greenwood’s costumes, Natasha Katz’s lighting and Danny Mefford’s choreography.

Sadly The Sound of Music tour suffers from the Civic Theatre’s usual sound dichotomy: Spoken word, unintelligible and singing amplification, better. Under the baton of Music Director Jay Alger, the 17-piece (four traveling, including Alger; 13 local) union orchestra is exemplary.

The Sound of Music continues at 7:30pm tonight, Friday and Saturday, with additional performances at 2pm Saturday and 1 and 6pm Sunday. or (888) 937-8995.


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