When The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway in 1959, audiences heralded it as an instant classic. Featuring music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music won the Tony award for Best Musical – setting the stage for it to become one of the most beloved musicals of all time.
In addition, Mary Martin won the Tony for Best Leading Actress as the musical’s central role of Maria, a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey who is sent to be a governess to the seven children of Austrian military commander and recent widower Captain Georg von Trapp.
A film adaptation of The Sound of Music was then released in 1965. That movie won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Julie Andrews was so captivating in the role of Maria that it would be hard to picture playing the role any other way.
The story of the musical is based on the 1949 memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp. Taking place in Austria leading up to the country being annexed into Nazi Germany in 1938, Maria is studying to become a nun when the Mother Abbess decides to send her out into the real world to take care of the von Trapp children. This reprieve from the rigors of abbey life is meant to give Maria the opportunity to see if the life monastic life of a nun is going to be right for her.
Maria excels in her new position and bonds the von Trapp children. Much to everyone’s surprise including themselves, Maria and Captain von Trapp end up falling in love.
A NEW VISION
Reimagining The Sound of Music could be considered blaspheme to some theater goers. In the new production playing at Marriott Theatre through June 5, director Nick Bowling offers us a reinterpretation of the role of Maria, and it has an expanding effect on the timbre of the overall production. Bowling’s vision for Marriott’s The Sound of Music is absolutely brilliant and is a remarkable success.
Although a celebrated theater veteran, Addie Morales has an extremely youthful look. Bowling gives Morales free reign to embrace this and instill her Maria with a childlike innocence. Although she is being sent to care for children, this Maria has barely graduated from being a child herself.
As indicated by the standing ovation she received on opening night, Addie Morales’s brave acting choices, angelic voice, and star charisma make this ingenue one to celebrate and watch. Addie Morales has the potential to be an icon in the world of musical theatre.
Playing Maria with this level of youthfulness means that her relationship with the von Trapp children is different than it would be for a governess with a few more years on her. Rather than being their superior, Morales’ Maria connects to the children more as their peer. From this a true bond of love and respect develops, making her later transition into being their new mother at the close of the show to be a very natural one.
CREATING A FAMILY
The children in the Marriott production are amazing. Each one excels in their role. Of them, two really stand out: Archer Geye as young Kurt and Campbell Krausen as love struck teenager Liesl.
Geye has about the cutest smile you have ever seen on a young actor. He just lights up the stage, even when he’s not talking. He also has a beautiful singing voice.
Because of the acting and vocal demands of the role of 16-year-old Liesl, the part is usually played by an adult actress who can read young. With Morale’s Maria being played so young, it required the casting of a true teenager as Liesl. Despite being just 16 years old herself, Krausen holds her own among the leads. She is a great singer and strong actress, capable of showing all the emotions necessary to paint a complete character for the audience to sit back and enjoy.
Liesl is at a hormonal crossroads. At times she feels like a child needing a parent to guide her, at other times she is defiant – thinking she is old enough to look out for herself. Among the bevy of emotions teenagers must deal with is the stirring of romantic feelings. Liesl is no exception.
Rolf, played by Emmet Smith, is a local teen boy with eyes for Liesl. The two duet on the playful fun song Sixteen Going on Seventeen. Rolf must eventually choose between his feelings for Liesl and his allegiance to the Nazi party.
The rest of the von Trapp children include Brody Tyner as Friedrich, Milla Liss as Louisa, Omi Lichtenstein as Brigitta, Olivia O’Sullivan as Marta, and Reese Bella as Gretl. Along with Geye and Krausen, they make a very convincing and well-cast family of talented singers.
Erik Hellman makes his Marriott Theatre debut as Captain von Trapp. Usually playing dramatic roles at such venues as Steppenwolf, Goodman, Lookingglass, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and Writer’s Theatre, Hellman has a Gary Oldman-like intensity. Captain von Trapp later softens due to Maria’s influence; Hellman makes this emotional and personality transition seamlessly. He is a very talented actor who presents a very complex character.
SEALED WITH A KISS
There are different kinds of kisses, ranging from tentative to familiar to passionate. When Hellman and Morales come together for their first kiss, their embrace tells a comprehensive story with beginning, middle, and end. This attention to detail is just one example of how good these two performers are and how good of a director Bowling is.
The supporting role of the Mother Abbess is a career-making part. For her performance in the original Broadway production, Patricia Neway won the Tony award for Best Featured Actress. Daniella Dalli brings the role to life for the Marriott Theatre with aplomb. Her amazing voice is at its peak with the song Climb Ev’ry Mountain at the end of Act 1. A national touring musical theatre actress, Dalli is a blessing in the role.
The nuns overall are very effective a group. They open the show with Preludium, an acapella number that not only marks the setting of the Nonnberg Abbey as a holly place in the story, but seems to bless the stage itself as a safe place for the actors in this musical to bare their souls, sing to the heavens, and touch the audience in a magical way.
The song Maria near the beginning of the story is exceptionally well done. In the song Sister Berthe (Susan Moniz), Sister Sophia (Ana Silva), Sister Margaretta (Lydia Burke), and the Mother Abbess question their postulant’s future as a nun.
NO SMALL PARTS
In supporting roles Heidi Kettenring and Rob Lindley are entertaining as Elsa Schrader and Max Detweiler, respectively.
Elsa is the very wealthy president of a large corporation – not your typical position of power for a woman in 1938. Kettenring is a very capable actress who paints a very strong woman, who in addition to being powerful in the world of business also wants to land the equally wealthy Captain von Trapp as a husband.
Lindley’s Max at first seems too flamboyant for the time period, however the Jeff Award-winning actor makes the character choice make sense when he takes great effort to hide these qualities from Max’s personality when Nazis are around. It is a brave and effective characterization. Lindley’s comedic timing is sheer brilliance.
Not every musical is filled with big dance numbers. Choreography for The Sound of Music by William Carlos Angulo is more staged movement than dance – which is all the musical really calls for. Angulo does a good job at ensuring the characters are moving around on stage to keep things visually interesting during the songs.
Musically, this production is very solid. There are some amazing voices in the cast that really shine. The orchestra never misses a beat. Music director Ryan T. Nelson and music supervisor Patti Garwood have inspired a musical mastery by the cast and orchestra that will delight audiences from start to finish.
The artistic team is well led by associate artistic director Peter Marston Sullivan. Costumes by Sally Dolembo are very appropriate. I love Dolembo’s attention to detail. Set design is by Collette Pollard, lighting design is by Jesse Klug, sound design is by Michael Daly, properties design is by Sally Zack, projections and media design is by Anthony Churchill, and wig design is by Miguel A. Armstrong
Rest assured, this spirited and fresh production of The Sound of Music is a bonafide hit. Reserve your tickets now for this wonderful classic filled with breakout performances that all ages will love.
The Sound of Music is scheduled for performances at 7:30pm Wednesday and Thursday, 8pm Friday, 4pm and 8pm Saturday, 1pm and 5pm Sundays, with select 1pm shows on Thursdays. Ticket prices range between $50 and $60, excluding tax and handling fees. Student, senior, and military discounts are available. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of dinner-theatre packages available for purchase through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call (847) 634-0100.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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