The Hills Are Alive at Drury Lane
Friday, October 28, 2011
To be fair, I'm probably not the best person to review a stage version of "The Sound of Music."
I'm a bit of a fanatic when it comes to the movie, which I have seen more times than I've keep track. I adore Julie Andrews - between this and "Mary Poppins," she made being a governess look like the world's best job. And I have frolicked through the park in Salzburg, Austria where they filmed the "Do, Re, Mi" song, even though I can't even remotely be described as a dancer.
So the stage version of the show - which actually came out six years before the iconic movie - at Drury Lane had a lot to live up to in my mind.
Fortunately, the charming production more than meets expectations.
Jennifer Blood gives a lovely performance as Maria, younger and more naïve than Andrews' version, with a sharp wit that portrays her difficulty fitting in at the Abbey. Larry Adams is sternly handsome as Captain Von Trapp and bests Christopher Plummer with his powerful singing voice.
The real scene-stealers, though, are the Von Trapp kids, from sixteen-going-on-seventeen Leisl on down to adorable little Gretl. Although some might think they lack the polish and poise of some performers, the scenes featuring the children learning how to sing and dance ring true to life with a lovable awkwardness I enjoyed. "Do-Re-Mi," "The Lonely Goatherd" and "So Long, Farewell" all received enthusiastic ovations from the audience.
The stage show is funnier than the movie, with some self-aware winks to the audience, and a sly performance of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." The slower spots for kids are the usual suspects: basically, any scene set in the Abbey. If you're looking for a bathroom break before intermission, consider the "Morning Hymn/Climb Ev'ry Mountain" sequence (my least favorite as a child), or the wordless wedding scene in Act II.
One of the final scenes, set at the Kaltzberg Festival, does an excellent job of drawing the audience into the action, although I won't reveal any details.
True devotees to the movie will notice several changes to the story. The show follows the original Rodgers & Hammerstein structure, so it opens in the Abbey, not on the mountain. Crowd-pleaser "My Favorite Things" is performed earlier in the show and by Maria and the Mother Abbess (a strong-voiced Patti Cohenour), rather than during the thunderstorm scene (where you'll hear "The Lonely Goatherd").
Plus there are two additional numbers, "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It," both featuring the characters of Elsa Schraeder and Max Detweiler. The second song puts more emphasis on the Captain's struggle with the Nazi regime coming to power in Austria and could be a good conversation-starter with older children about whether it's good to "go with the flow" and if you should look out for yourself first and foremost.
The show runs about 3 hours with intermission, so if your kids have an early bedtime, consider the afternoon shows, rather than the 8:30 showtime on Friday and Saturday nights.
But whatever time you see it, this delightful production will have you humming, singing, dancing all the way home - even if, like me, you consider the movie version of "The Sound of Music" the gold standard.