The Sound of Music in Tampa at the Straz

When I first found out I was being given two tickets to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” on Tour for review purposes, I assumed my husband wouldn’t want to go. I thought of the show as girly, romantic – like a musical chick flick.

trapp-familymemoirOn the other hand, he thought of it as a Christmastime staple. Which led to a little conversation called: “Why is the Sound of Music a Christmas movie?” And if you Google ‘Why is the Sound of’, apparently a lot of other people have the same question, because it pops right up. It’s not Christmas at any point during the show, like 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis”. There’s no decorated tree in the background or presents, like in “Annie.” Even the song “My Favorite Things,” which deep down also has nothing to do with Christmas, has become a Christmas song… hmmm…

There’s no real answer. I blame the TV networks. In some places it is cold, and families are indoors, so they give us a feel-good film to enjoy together. I did learn from Googling that after their escape to Italy (which happened by train, not by climbing mountains overnight, sorry), the von Trapp clan became a popular touring group in the United States, even performing a song on Elvis’ Christmas album.

Keep in mind, though, my husband grew up in a Christian home celebrating Christmas… for me, as a Jew, “The Sound of Music” has always been about standing up to bullies. Captain Von Trapp and his attitude toward the nazis while the world crumbled around him was more powerful than Maria’s love story for me as a child. (And in fact, there is one scene in the touring Broadway production when nazi flags are waving, and the woman sitting behind me started crying.)

Historical note: The Broadway production premiered in 1959, and ran successfully for three years with 1443 performances. In 1960, it won five Tony Awards. Filming on location for the movie started in early spring of 1964. In my Googling, I also stumbled across a video clip of Julie Andrews yodeling with the real Maria von Trapp on the Julie Andrews hour! You can also watch a ‘where are they now’ reunion of the actors who played the 7 children in the film with Julie Andrews here.

6949906114_e8d011b978_zWhen I asked around to my friends, “The Sound of Music” is a favorite classic for many of them. People don’t necessarily want a complete rework of a show so beloved. But many people have only seen the movie, which strays from the stage production, mainly in song placement. Don’t expect “My Favorite Things,” for example, to be sung during a rainstorm, or for the children to dance with creepy goat marionettes. My daughters’ school performed “The Sound of Music” a few years back, and we got to see a lot of friends perform in it (shown).

This touring Broadway show is a new, fresh production directed by Jack O’Brien. He said he enjoys the story because people area being challenged and have to determine what is worth fighting for. That message comes through loud and clear, no matter how refreshed the blocking or set are. A timeless juxtaposition in “The Sound of Music” is the ‘herring up against a shark’ Georg, falling for the naïve Maria, who needs to ask her Mother Superior permission to even sing.

bs-ae-sound-of-musicKerstin Anderson, a college kid, is cast as Maria. This has the potential of being a star-making role for an unknown actress. I think she’s very good. I take pause at “great,” however, because there’s still something fake-y about how she speaks. She had a powerful start and somewhere in the middle of Act 1 started sounding like, “I need to speak like I’m on stage now.” The romantic chemistry, whimsy and singing voice are all there, and she has a great wholesome feel. A little more time with her seasoned team may be all she needs to grow in the role.

The night I saw the show, Ashley Brown as Mother Abbess received the grandest applause, with people leaping to their feet when she took her curtain call bow. She is endearing as Maria’s guide and totally nailed “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” (There was a group in the audience that night dressed as nuns. They were up in a balcony waving down to the orchestra, and they were cracking people up.)

Here’s a fun fact for you – the young actors playing Rolf and Liesl are an actual couple. Their updated “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is something to look forward to, but I won’t spoil it by telling you the twist.

One of the things I loved about the updated set was the repeated placement of Swiss lace. Just as the song “Edelweiss” creates a beautiful theme musically, the use of lace made in Austria of the same name pleased me. (Yes, Swiss Edelweiss lace is often made in Austria.)

Below is a brief video montage of “The Sound of Music” Broadway tour, which is at the Straz Center through Sunday, Dec. 27. For more information and to surprise a loved one with tickets, follow this link to the Straz Center box office. If you’re not in the Tampa Bay area, check for tour dates and tickets.

Get to know the stars of the show in this cute clip where they all pay tribute to Jack O’Brien’s new vision for the production.

I was given two tickets to “The Sound of Music” at the Straz for review purposes. Opinions are my own.


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