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The Sound of Music

a Musical
by Rodgers & Hammerstein

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : Earl Smith Strand Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4180

SHOWING : December 02, 2011 - December 18, 2011



Music by Richard Rodgers; Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; Book by Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse – The final collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein was destined to become the world’s most beloved musical. When a postulant proves too high-spirited for the religious life, she is dispatched to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval Captain. Her growing rapport with the youngsters, coupled with her generosity of spirit, gradually captures the heart of the stern Captain, and they marry. Upon returning from their honeymoon they discover that Austria has been invaded by the Nazis, who demand the Captain’s immediate service in their navy. The family’s narrow escape over the mountains to Switzerland on the eve of World War II provides one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in the theatre.

Stage & Music Director Brandt Blocker
Assistant Music Director BJ Brown
Assistant Director Dustin Lewis
Choreographer Claci Miller
Stage Manager Christine Jones
Assistant Stage Manager Liz Schad
Sister Berthe Reverie Berger
Nun / Party Guest Katie Borden
Admiral von Schreiber Don Brainerd
Rolf Nate Brandt
Frau Schmidt / Nun Dianne Butler
Frau Zeller / Nun Barbara Capogna-Moras
Herr Zeller Matthew Carter
Brigitta Brett Cooper
Gretl Kyla Deaver
Liesl Findley Hansard
Franz Jerry Harlow
Sister Josephine / Party Guest Kara Noel Harrington
Kurt Allen Hill
Sister Catherine Ashleigh Hoppe
Sister Sophia / Baroness Elberfeld Kristie Krabe
Baron Elberfeld Jeff Macko
Captain Von Trapp Jeff McKerley
Maria Wendy Melkonian
Friedrich Bryce Payne
Marta Alyssa Payne
Mother Abbess Mary Welch Rogers
Max Detweiller John Schmedes
Sister Margaretta Kelly Schmidt
Louisa Hope Valls
Nun Lauren Watkins
Frau Schraeder Stephanie Wilkinson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


How Do You Solve a Problem
by Dedalus
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
How do you solve the problem of writing about a well-produced. well-acted production of a musical you have little affection for and even less patience? Here’s one way.

“The Sound of Music” is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical (loosely) based on the life of Maria von Trapp and the von Trapp family singers. With a book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse (“Anything Goes” and “Life With Father”), it tells the story of Maria, an Austrian novice nun who is assigned as governess to the children of Captain Georg von Trapp, a World War I Austrian hero. Her love of music soon (that is, immediately) wins over the supposedly difficult children, and … well, if you don’t know the story, you’ve managed to avoid one of the most popular movie musicals ever made.

I won’t even attempt to discuss the thousands of ways this story departs from the “real” story, since “dramatic license” is part and parcel of theatrical versions of “real events.” Instead, let me talk about what was created here. One of the biggest disconnects is the difference between what we’re told and what we’re shown. We’re told that the von Trapp brood are ill-mannered, badly behaved, and go through governesses faster than lapsed dieters go through donuts. What we’re shown are a passel of cute, slightly rambunctious kids who go all weepy at the sound of thunder, who line up in rigid formation at their father’s slightest whistle, and who accept Maria so quickly it makes your head spin. We’re told that Captain von Trapp is stern and unfeeling and hates music, but we’re shown a man who dotes on his kids and has a guitar always nearby for a ready ballad. We’re told that Maria and the Captain fall in love, but we’re shown few scenes of them together until the inevitable love song (“An Ordinary Couple” replaced here by the movie’s more saccharine “Something Good”).

Even harder to justify theatrically are the many many long scenes of characters just standing and singing at us. Yes, that is logically what they would do – they are, after all, a choir of nuns and a family giving many (many) concerts. Still, it always leaves me with the uneasy sensation that the strained plot elements are mere filler contrived to tie together a series of concert performances – story telling at its most skeletal; and uninteresting (and surprising, coming from the team whose usual melding of song and story set the template for almost every musical since “Oklahoma.”)

Not surprisingly, the Nazis are trotted out to give the piece some hokum suspense (the Captain is patriotically Austrian and hates the Germans’ intrusion). This would be acceptable dramatically, despite that fact that in real Life, the von Trapps took a leisurely train ride to Italy as the first leg of their “escape” to America, long after the marriage and the start of the war. (Oops, I said I wouldn’t talk about real life / stage life discrepancies – sorry). But here, “Ze Nazis” are so clownish and one-dimensional, they distract much more than they threaten.

The score does contain some nice moments, but a few too many that simply grate. I have always disliked the moment when the jubilantly spiritual Wedding Procession segues into the doggerel melody of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria.” -- this is a moment that has never worked for me, not in the movie and not in any of the many stage versions I’ve seen. I’ve also always found “Do-Re-Mi,” “So Long, Farewell,” and “The Lonely Goatherd” too simplistic melodically to be interesting, and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” a pale shadow of the other R&H “Spiritual” numbers. I do have an appreciation of the almost-plainsong of the Nun’s choir pieces, and I always enjoy “Edelweiss.” Still, there is nothing in this score I would yearn to add to my collection, and the inclusion here of songs written specifically for the movie version adds nothing nor takes away anything.

But then, with all this said, the Atlanta Lyric Theatre has assembled a top-notch cast and design team that provides more pleasure than I have EVER gotten from this show.

Starting with the set by Isabel and Moriah Curley Clay, we’re treated to an adaptable playing area backed by a beautifully rendered Alpine scene – a backdrop so well-done I thought at first it was a photographic projection. Although it may strain credulity that this same view backs every scene, I quickly adapted to the device, and respected the flexibility of the set even more – there are a lot of scenes here, and very little time was spent between them.

I also truly enjoyed the performances of the leads, Wendy Melkonian as Maria and a nicely understated Jeff McKerley as the Captain. At root, these are tremendously predicable, even bland characters, but Melkonian and McKerley gave them so much personality, it was like seeing them fresh and new. I also really liked Stephanie Wilkinson’s Baroness, John Schmedes’ Max, and the children played by Findley Hansard (Liesl), Bryce Payne (Friedrich), Hope Valls (Louisa), Allen Hill (Kurt), Brett Cooper (Brigitta), Alyssa Payne (Marta), and Kyla Deaver (Gretl). These kids all created individual characters and came across as real (not stage) siblings with their squabbling and little moments of affection. Their voices also blended beautifully, and I had no trouble accepting them as a professional musical group.

So, will I ever like “The Sound of Music?” Probably not as well as I like other Rodgers and Hammerstein offerings, and probably not as well as I liked this particular production.

Still and all, if you are a fan, you will like this show, and if you’re not, you won’t hate it.

And, I suppose, that’s how you solve a problem like a review of a good production of a show you don’t really like.

-- Brad Rudy(

Too Much the Movie Onstage
by playgoer
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"The Sound of Music" is a terrific movie, based on a pretty terrific stage musical. Each was tailored for its medium, taking advantage of the possibilities of location shooting and the theatre, respectively. The movie is so well known now that stage productions tend to interpolate the movie's new songs ("I Have Confidence" and, replacing "An Ordinary Couple," "Something Good"). Atlanta Lyric Theatre's production goes a couple of steps beyond, cutting the songs of Max and the Baroness and attempting to capture the flavor of many of the movie's musical movements. I would have preferred a more original approach, but director Brandt Blocker's mounting of the show seems to be attracting capacity audiences.

The deep, narrow stage of the Strand presents some blocking challenges, but they are successfully worked around in this production. A raised platform at the far back allows two levels of actors to be seen in many scenes, and clusters of ensemble people at the sides of the stage leave the center free for the principals. It seems a tad congested at times, but there are no traffic jams.

The set design by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay frames the action with a Salzburg-style mansion, musical instruments on panels above. The red curtain parts to reveal various settings. Behind them all, visible from Nonnberg Abbey and from the von Trapp house, is a painted backdrop of a meadow and mountain. This backdrop does a wonderful job of setting the scene in mountainous Austria.

Jeff McKerley, as Captain von Trapp, and Wendy Melkonian, as Maria, are both older than the script calls for, but that isn't an issue. (Jeff, in fact, looks a bit too young for Stephanie Wilkinson's Baroness Schraeder.) Mr. McKerley and Ms. Melkonian each have the skills honed over years of performing to make their characters and their relationship charming and believable. Their singing voices, of course, are unequaled.

The choral sound of the nuns is pretty amazing too. The von Trapp children don't generally have singing voices as polished as the nuns, but they sound fine too. Findley Hansard, as oldest daughter Liesl, in particular sounds great. She has a lot of sparkle and presence onstage, but I was disappointed in Claci Miller's choreography for her in "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." She was too bold, coming across more as a saucy soubrette than an innocent teenager. Her chemistry with the talented Nate Brandt, as Rolf, was negligible, which didn't help.

Only the relationships between Maria and the Captain and between them and the children come across strong in this "Sound of Music." That's the way it should be. It gives a satisfying arc to the story as a whole and binds the show together. Director Brandt Blocker has played it pretty safe in putting this production on the boards, but it's a satisfying showing of "The Sound of Music," targeted to the tastes of people who know only the movie. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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