“The Sound of Music”: A Timely Revival

Presented by Networks Press
Written by Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
Directed by Matt Lenz
Choreography by Danny Mefford
Music supervision by Andy Einhorn

May 1-13, 2018
Wang Theatre
Boston, MA
Sound of Music on Facebook

Review by Kate Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) Hate crimes are up. White nationalism is on the rise. Reports of race-based bullying are spiking in schools across the country. Into this mix drops a timely revival of The Sound of Music at the Wang Theatre. The iconic musical about a young novice-turned nanny and an Austrian navy captain who refuses to bow to the Nazi invasion has been delighting audiences for decades both on stage and on screen.

The heart-warming tale turns gradually darker as the Nazi grip on Austria strengthens. When I was a child, my babysitter often would turn the movie off early on because she was afraid that my sister and I would be frightened by the ending, but I was never afraid. As I watched the movie while snuggled against my babysitter, the events of the Holocaust felt both centuries and worlds away – a relic of a past long buried, containing sentiments that I never encountered. This time around, as I sat in the darkened theater with my 12-year-old daughter watching this recent revival, the danger felt all too immediate, and Captain Von Trapp’s stand against hate became a call to arms.

Scenic Designer Douglas W. Schmidt and Director Matt Lenz wisely opt for traditional staging, which allows the themes of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s script – the importance of love, the dangers of hate, and the bittersweet journey into adulthood – to speak for themselves. And this production presents these themes artfully, gradually increasing the pressure while distracting us with the wonderful music and engaging children. The cast is, by  and large, solid, and the songs and scenes are well executed. In this production, Maria (Jill-Christine Wiley) and Georg (Mike McLean) kindle a small flame, but stop short of a full-fledged fire. The children are enchanting – from Keslie Ward’s portrayal of naive Liesl to Sophia Massa’s adorable Gretl. (My daughter was so taken by Massa that she cooed whenever she took center stage.)

The show is fast-paced – kept moving, in part, by set changes while scenes are ongoing. While efficient, this can at times prove distracting. At one point, while the children are singing with Maria in her bedroom, they dance the bed off the stage. While this allows for a quicker set change and provides more space for dancing, it pulls the audience out of the carefully created world. All I could think as I watched was, “Where are the children taking the bed?”

This production is solid and well executed, but may fail to distract seasoned theatergoers from their memories of the celebrated movie. Of course, that is often the point of a revival. So go and see this production for the wonderful music and important messages about love and courage in the face of hate, but be warned that while the show’s plot may have new resonance, the production treads a familiar road. If you grew up, as I did, with the Julie Andrews movie-version, the revival will be hard-pressed to best the original.

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