Broadway In Chicago’s engagement of THE SOUND OF MUSIC national tour makes for a pleasant and tuneful evening at this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Under the direction of Jack O’Brien, this production teems with a lively and joyful energy. In Kerstin Anderson, O’Brien has found a stunning anchor for the the leading role of Maria Rainer. Anderson, a current undergraduate studying Musical Theater at Pace University, exudes optimism and youthful vivacity onstage. And from the moment she begins singing the show’s title song, it becomes evident that audiences are in good hands.
Anderson’s natural youthfulness also makes her a convincing governess—and above all else, companion—to the Von Trapp children. The relationship between Maria and the Von Trapp children feels genuine and warm. This group, portrayed by Paige Silvester (Liesl), Jeremy Michael Lanuti (Frederich), Ashley Brooke (Louisa), Iris Davies (Brigitta), Austin Levine (Kurt), Kyla Carter (Marta), and Audrey Bennett (an utterly adorable Gretl), are also delights themselves. The renditions of the classics “Do-Re-Mi” and “So Long, Farewell” are particular highlights with lovely vocals and charming choreography from Danny Mefford. Silvester also has a chance to display her formidable acting and vocal chops in “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” She’s positively radiant onstage, and her extra sassy Liesl manages to be both stubborn and totally likable. While Dan Tracy charms as her love interest Rolf, he’s not vocally a strong enough match for Silvester.
There’s plenty of talent on display in the adult roles as well. Ben Davis has a moving take on Captain Georg Von Trapp and has a beautifully rich voice. And while both Anderson and Davis do fine acting work, there’s not palpable chemistry—the relationship feels more friendly than romantic. But in many ways, this SOUND OF MUSIC on the whole feels more focused on the notion of family and a support system, which Maria and the Von Trapps respectively provide for one another. Melody Betts lends some laughs as the stern but warmhearted Mother Abbess, and her performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” soars to inspiring vocal heights. Teri Hansen has a sincere take on Von Trapp’s fiance Elsa Schraeder, and Merwin Foard makes an amusing Max.
Douglas Schmidt does lovely set design work here, and his painting-like backdrops provide that sweeping sense of Austria’s lush hills and greenery. His set pieces for the Von Trapp mansion also feel sufficiently opulent. Many of the set changes are supremely unwieldy, however, and unfold mid-song. This production would have been wise to make better use of the “in one” convention and have some sort of backdrop cover the front of the stage while these changes unfold. And Schmidt’s ominous red curtains emblazoned with large swastikas struck me as too unsettling during the pivotal music concert at the end of the show. While this SOUND OF MUSIC is largely a joy-filled production, those curtains proved distracting especially during “Edelweiss,” one of the loveliest numbers in the show. Perhaps Schmidt was using them to reinforce that dichotomy, but I found myself focused more on the curtains than the vocal performance. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are in keeping with the traditional design of this production, and her “curtain” playclothes for the Von Trapp children are spectacular.
Altogether, this SOUND OF MUSIC is lush and lovely, providing a sublime opportunity to see the final collaboration in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s partnership.
Broadway In Chicago’s engagement of THE SOUND OF MUSIC plays the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph, through June 19. Tickets are $24-$115 and can be purchased online at BroadwayInChicago.com, by phone at 800.775.2000, or in-person at any Broadway In Chicago box office.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy