Though “The Sound of Music” doesn’t have as much opportunity for spectacle as we usually see at Tuacahn, director Tim Threlfall manages to make it fill every bit of that vast amphitheater in a way that reinvents the show without turning it on its ear.
In fact, “The Sound of Music” turns out to be nearly the perfect show for this venue. When Maria (Jan Broberg Felt) comes twirling down the mountain singing, “The hills are alive,” she’s twirling down an actual mountain and splashing her feet in a real brook.
An even more exciting use of the theater’s natural charms comes later, when Maria has become governess to Capt. Von Trapp’s seven children. The scene takes place “outdoors near the Von Trapp estate,” and the staging here makes full use of that fact. The children and Maria ride around on bicycles, Friedrich (Justin Johnson) and Kurt (Bryan Stephenson) swim in the pond, and a car with a Nazi emblem on its door drives past ominously.
“Do-Re-Mi” is surely one of the jolliest numbers in all of musical theater anyway, and this setting makes it all the jollier.
But surpassing it in outright cuteness is the scene in which the children practice “The Lonely Goatherd” for the arts festival. There are large cartoonish cut-outs of the song’s characters, and three life-sized puppets — actually actors pretending to be suspended from strings — dance along with them. It’s a little unclear what the concept is — are these marionettes that have been “enlarged” for us to see? If so, who’s manipulating them? Or are they merely a device for the audience’s benefit, meaning they don’t exist for the other people onstage? — but it would be churlish to dwell on matters of artistic license when the scene is so delightful.
Brenda Cox, Ciro Barbaro and Mindy Smoot, all stand-outs in “Oklahoma!,” shine again here as the Mother Abbess, Max Detweiler and Liesl, respectively. As Capt. Von Trapp, Keith Weirich conveys love for his children even during the half of the show in which he is stern with them; this makes those scenes less uncomfortable (and more realistic) than they sometimes are. Weirich has a beautiful voice, too.
Jan Broberg Felt makes a perky, energetic Maria; this is an actress who clearly performs with all her heart. One fears it may be a little misplaced, though. Her Maria is too sassy: too sassy for 1930s Austria, too sassy for someone who wants to be a nun, too sassy for someone working in a strict household under a militaristic employer. Maria should be enthusiastic, of course, and even a little unorthodox — hence the musical question of how one solves a problem like her — but making faces and mimicking the Captain’s voice when his back is turned don’t fit the character at all.
That aside, “The Sound of Music” is a stirring, lovely show, liable to compete in people’s memories with the classic film version.
This made three years in a row that one of the Tuacahn shows was one that I had to see somewhere else the same month. Ah, the life.
Some changes were made in this production to make it more similar to the film version. The song "How Can Love Survive?" was cut, and "The Lonely Goatherd" and "Edelweiss" were moved up in the show (a smart move anyway, in my opinion).