The Sound of Music
It’s almost unfair to review a stage production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "The Sound of Music" because the 1965 film version is such an indelible and iconic part of American pop culture. It’s not that big of a stretch to say that the Baby Boomer generation was raised on the film.
Back in the day when we only had 13 channels on TV, "The Sound of Music" was often presented on holiday evenings as an event broadcast. But to some, the film’s ubiquity has cast the Best Picture winner into a too sugary, schmaltzy corner. One of its classic songs has even evolved into a holiday song. And then there’s the very long shadow cast by Dame Julie swirling atop the Alps.
But Director Cheryl Denson and Lyric Stage in Irving know their way around a musical. In fact, Lyric Stage has been climbing and conquering mountains of towering classic musicals for years including "The King and I," "West Side Story," "Gypsy" and "My Fair Lady," to name just a few. And while "The Sound of Music" may be a bit familiar, Lyric’s backstage craftsmanship, a stirring 40-piece orchestra and several soaring performances make this production one of my favorite things this year.
"The Sound of Music" (set in pre-World War II Austria) is the story of a would-be nun (Maria) who is sent by her Mother Abbess to govern the seven children of the stoic Captain Von Trapp. The musical is overflowing with memorable, hummable songs; many of which have become standards including "Do Re Mi," "My Favorite Things" and the title song.
"The Sound of Music" was the last collaboration of the celebrated team of composer and lyricist Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It’s a delight to hear their entire score played by a full orchestra (under the direction of Conductor Jay Dias.) But, surprisingly, it’s the small musical whispers and echoes that you hear between the familiar notes that elevate the entire performance.
From the moment Bri Sudia (Maria) plants her feet center stage in her postulate black and sings the first line of "The Sound of Music" you know you’re in for an auditory treat. Sudia plays Maria earnestly and matter-of-factly with a hint of tomboy thrown in. It’s an enchanting interpretation.
Watching Christopher Carl (Captain von Trapp) transform from an aloof dispassionate widower to a man in love is a delight. Sudia and Carl have terrific chemistry together and it’s a joy to watch their hearts melt as their characters fall in love.
The promises of blossoming careers are glimpsed in the performances of Emily McIntyre and Colin G. Beaton as the two eldest von Trapp children. And Jodi C. Wright’s Mother Abbess is as formidable as her charge is to Maria to "Climb Every Mountain." The opening "Preludium," a chanting by the convent nuns, goes on far too long. But the nun’s post-wedding "Confitemini Domino" is heavenly.
The wedding scene is the only scene that seems forced and therefore doesn’t work. Like other directors before her, Denson struggles with the wedding staging. But to be fair, how do you solve a problem scene which requires every character to be on stage and that includes a wedding procession that runs perpendicular to the stage? At least we get to hear Rodgers grand, beloved and much used Wedding March.
Film purists will notice several songs not included in the film that work very well in the stage production. And several favorite tunes appear in different places in the stage production than they do in the film. Although some theater companies include them in their stage productions, two songs written directly for the film ("Something Good" and "I Have Confidence") are absent here.
While this move stays true to the original 1959 stage "The Sound of Music," their inclusion here would be welcome. But the only true disappointment in Lyric’s first-rate production is that you don’t exit into Times Square, where it could hold its own, but into a hot Texas night instead.
"The Sound of Music" runs through Sept. 15 at the Irving Arts Center, 333 North MacArthur in Irving For info or tickets, call 972-252-2787 or visit www.lyricstage.org