The charm of the original, 60 years later
By Jim Reiter
The hills are alive … How do you solve a problem like Maria … Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do… on and on. The Sound of Music is one of the most popular Broadway musicals and movies ever to hit the stage and screen. It’s been done so many times by regional theaters and dinner theaters and community theaters that you probably have the lyrics memorized more than 60 years after it first opened on Broadway.
Yet you go back whenever you can.
Maybe it’s a repeat of the 1965 movie on TV, maybe it’s a live version on TV, produced a few years back. Maybe it’s yet another effort to bring in a big audience by a local theater trying to cover costs after Covid ran rampant over so many local theaters’ finances, shutting them down for two years. Maybe it’s because you have a family member or a friend in that latest iteration. Whatever the reason you and so many others go, again and again, the timelessness of its message, music, and charm is what keeps it, and the audience, returning over and over again.
The Sound of Music is a timeless classic, and the current offering by 2nd Star Productions in Bowie maintains the show’s charm.
First of all, you’ve got to have a bunch of talented kids who are not afraid of the stage and whose singing talents are enough to replicate those of the original Trapp Family Singers, whose story is the basis of The Sound of Music. They don’t need to be perfect but they need to be able to sing and harmonize, and act, if nothing else, cutely. Check.
You’ve got to have a Mother Superior who can deliver the inspirational Climb Every Mountain with a voice that elicits joy and confidence rather than winces. Check.
And you need a Maria who can confidently sing the role without evoking comparisons to Mary Martin on Broadway or Julie Andrews in the movie, plus be believable in her love for the children and, later, for their father. Check.
2nd Star Productions’ The Sound of Music is not perfect, but it is charming and entertaining because the three ingredients mentioned above are on stage in full force. The children act just fine and sing just as well, and their charm covers the stage and the audience like a snowstorm covering Buffalo, New York.
Aubrey Anderson as Liesl, Noam Siegal as Friederich, Jillian Sank as Louisa, DeMarcus Tanque as Kurt, Risa Gabriel as Brigitta, Lillian Mae Jackson as Marta, and Grace Wenzel as young Gretl each charm their way through the kids’ scenes, and their support and love for each other is evident in how the older kids look out for the younger ones as they move around the stage and engage in the simple but effective choreography of Summer Moore. I’d say keep an eye on young Jackson, but I needn’t … her infectious smile and confidence on stage will grab you anyway.
Sarah Mitchell as the Mother Abbess is another charmer as she deals with the hard-to-handle Maria, and as she leads the other nuns in rousing and beautiful harmonies. But her clear and soaring soprano in the famous Act I closer Climb Every Mountain will want you to take any steps necessary to be a better person, yet at the same time pin you back in your seat as you silently give thanks for Mitchell’s ability to hit those notes seemingly effortlessly, and with a conviction that inspires awe.
Leela Dawson hits all the right notes as Maria, the would-be nun whose yearning to find herself is answered when she finds herself the governess of all those children, falls in love with them and their father and learns that fleeing the Nazis with them is more meaningful than returning to the nunnery. Dawson makes the title song her own, as she does with My Favorite Things, Do Re Mi, The Lonely Goatherd and I Have Confidence. Her highly trained voice works well with all of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic tunes, and her charm matches that of her young charges; she seems to have the same affection for them as the audience does.
It’s an enjoyable production of a show we’ve all seen so many times, and while it has its weaknesses. Several times actors young and old cannot be heard, there is a bit of uneven and unconfident acting, even overacting, and at least on the opening night, an otherwise fine orchestra was out of sync with the singers. Yet the production overall reminds us once again why we keep coming back. The Sound of Music has survived for more than 60 years because it is a charmer, and so is this production.
Directed by Kelsey Meiklejohn Bowen, The Sound of Music runs through Dec. 17; about two hours and 40 minutes with one intermission; masks required. FSa 8pm, Su 2pm, The Bowie Playhouse, $25 w/discounts, RSVP: 2ndstarproductions.org.