August 21, 2003
The Sound of Music
For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.
special to the Observer|
The Sound of Music remains one of the most wholesome pieces of musical theatre regularly performed on stage. Primarily a vehicle for heart-warming music, it encompasses a touching love story, as well as a gentle approach to World War II that is rarely seen in light of what history has taught us about that tyrannical time.
Director Drew Scott Harris manages to bring a fresh approach to a story many Americans can recite by rote. "My Favorite Things" is sung by Maria and Mother Abbess in the Abbey, rather than in Mariaís bedroom during a scary lightening storm. The bedroom scene instead is peppered by the capricious "The Lonely Goatherd," which gives the children an opportunity to improvise as a team, rather than listen to an oration by Maria. Special attention is given to the wedding scene. Mother Abbess stands before a stunning stained glass mosaic, her shimmering robe an apt reflection of the sacred ceremonyís importance.
But let me back up in case anyone is unfamiliar with the story. Set in Austria in 1938, "The Sound of Music" is the story of Maria, played by Tony-nominated Marla Schaffel, an impetuous young woman who is training to be a nun. The wise Mother Abbess, played by Jeanne Lehman, realizes Maria is miscast in this role, and assigns her to become nanny to the seven children of the von Trapp family. Since the death of his wife, Captain von Trapp runs his household like one of his ships; his children are desperate for love and attention, which Maria lavishes abundantly.
Simultaneously, the Nazis are occupying Austria, and it is just a matter of time before the Captain is forced to choose between joining or defying the Nazi Navy. Richard Rodgers wrote the music, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics. Issues of nationalism, political ideals, and love are illustrated more clearly in this rendition than Iíve previously seen on stage or on screen.
Schaffel, who recently performed in Charlotte Repertory Theatreís production of Let Me Sing, sings like an angel. Her clear voice coordinates beautifully with the childrenís. As Captain Georg von Trapp, Burke Moses is unconventionally handsome. His angst-imbued rendition of "Eidelweiss" was so touching it made me think I had personal memories of Austria.
Each von Trapp child is cuter than the next. Brigitta, played by Maggie Watts, the truth teller of the family, has the best lines. Dressed alternately in sailor suits, play clothes made of flowered curtains, and traditional Austrian skirts and knickers, they sang on cue, and barely missed a beat when the bedpost fell off during the bedroom scene.
Some of the dialogue is rushed, but the resulting time cut is worth it. The sound system in the Belk Theater continues to thwart technicians. Sometimes the actors sound like they are speaking from the bottom of tin cans, sometimes they sound like they are off-stage. Other times the mikes donít work at all, which the actors seem to take in stride.
Lynn Trenning, August 21, 2003