“The Sound of Music” is a classic story showcasing the power of music. Maria Rainer, a postulant who is ordered to leave the Nonnberg Abbey to find her true path to God, discovers herself falling in love with seven unruly von Trapp children and their father, the Captain, a grieving man who can only find solace in rules and structure. The book is by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, but despite the compelling story, it was Rodgers and Hammerstein who brought this fictionalized account of truly dark times to a rich and vibrant life with their brilliant creations. The show is not limited to one or two memorable songs, instead “The Sound of Music” plays like a greatest hits album from your favorite band, making the entire evening a thrill.
Jack O’Brien’s vision places a little more emphasis on the hostile climate of 1938. The backdrop of the impending seizure of the Austrian government by Nazi forces adds an element of danger and urgency to this production, which sits in poignant contrast to the joy and beauty that radiates from Maria Rainer.
The cast of this particular production is absolutely sterling as each individual performer manages to bring a unique and robust flavor to his or her character. The von Trapp children sparkle with more distinctive personality and charm than Snow White’s seven dwarfs. Teri Hansen brings a delicious wickedness to the wealth-driven Elsa Schrader. And the rather despicable, kowtowing Max Detweiler is deftly played by Merwin Foard.
Ben Davis is a harshly chiseled Captain Georg von Trapp who melts into a passionate father who could out-hunk Dr. McDreamy with his resonant velvet voice! Kerstin Anderson is pure perfection: her angelic vocals are pristine, while her spunky portrayal of Maria is the spark that brings a wonderful magic to the entire production.
One of the two standout performances of the evening was delivered by Melody Betts (The Mother Abbess), a powerhouse vocalist who brought the show to a halt with her unparalleled performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” just before intermission. Melody has a diva voice that is easily comparable to such acclaimed performers as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
The other star was Paige Silvester. Her spirited portrayal of 16-year-old Liesl was remarkable. The teen von Trapp twinkled with the exuberance of a youth who was just dipping her toe into what it felt like to be a woman. Her bright-eyed bounce and unintentional coyness were exhilarating. Blissfully unaware of her delightful dazzle, Liesl was the most engaging and electric character on the stage last night.
Jack O’Brien’s ‘The Sound of Music’ is everything you’re expecting... and more. The depth, poignancy, and power contained in this phenomenal production make it the must-see musical event of the season.
Remaining dates and times for Philadelphia’s Academy of Music shows:
Wednesday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 18, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 19, 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 19, 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 20, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 20, 6:30 p.m.