If all you've seen is the movie The Sound of Music, you don't know what Rodgers and Hammerstein really had in mind when their musical was first produced on Broadway in 1959. Well, now you can in a glorious new production by Chicago's Lyric Opera. Seldom are we treated to a pit orchestra of 37 musicians, a 25 member choral ensemble, spacious settings that are feast for the eye and a cast of top notch actor/singers. Before we get to the surprises in store for many of you, a word about the performers.
I can't recall a revival so perfectly cast. Jenn Gambatese is a perfect Maria - vulnerable, confused but confident in her abilities and expresses them all with a gorgeous voice. Billy Zane in an almost underplayed performance, has just the right tone for the stern Captain whose militaristic demeanor melts away when he realizes that Maria has brought back music into his life and he has a very pleasant singing voice. The wealthy Elsa Schraeder played by Elizabeth Futral and Edward Hibbert's, Max, the witty impresario fit in perfectly. Although, not an intentional scene stealer, when Christine Brewer as Mother Abbess belts out, Climb Ev'ry Mountain, it brings down the house. The children are certainly well schooled as many have played their roles in other productions and they seem to be having as much fun as the audience.
Hats off to The Lyric for not only an evening of great theatre but for giving those familiar only with the film version of the story the opportunity to experience why the original play made it so meaningful. The film's focus was mainly on Maria, the young girl from the convent and her romance with the mature, rather stoic Captain von Trapp. The original play, however, spends a little more time on the political crises of the day which saw the occupation and annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. The Lyric has brought back this plot development which explains why the Captain decides not to marry Elsa Schraeder who favors a compromise. This gives us a chance to hear a song not used in the movie, "No Way To Stop It". In fact, the Captain is very honest that he has no intention of re-joining the Germany Navy and they could wind up very poor and they sing about rich people not being rich anymore in "How Can Love Survive". And many of the familiar songs like "My Favorite Things" and "The Lonely Goatherd" are returned to their proper order in the show. And also we don't have to sit through the typical Hollywood drawn out dramatic ending when the von Trapp family tries to flee Austria. It's done, quickly and logically, as the original authors intended.
The Lyric's The Sound of Music, ably directed by Marc Bruni with some refreshing choreography by Denis Jones, is a rare treat for theatre lovers and you should try to see it. Performances continue at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive through May 25th. Showtime is a little under 3 hours and tickets are available at lyricopera.org/soundofmusic or by calling 312-827-5600.
Filed under: Theatre Reviews