You’re likely well acquainted with the quote about not being able to please everyone all the time. It rings particularly true when it comes to the staging of well-known and loved plays. Re-inventions are almost always disappointments, which means the only real option is to present the piece exactly as it always has been… but somehow make it better (or at least just as good as the original). It’s a tricky situation—and exactly what The Lower Ossington Theatre is up against with its production of The Sound of Music.
Transplanted to the larger Randolph Theatre, a cast of LOT company regulars assembled to tell the story of the von Trapp family, their governess Maria, and their escape from the Nazi occupation of Austria. Of course, this is all done through the magic of song, including the classics “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favourite Things,” and “Maria.”
The opening number starts the show on a high note—literally—with the nuns demonstrating their ability to sound just like professional church choir members. The voice of Adeen Ashton Fogle’s Mother Superior is particularly notable. After some talk (and song) about the whimsical and irresponsible Maria, the girl in question arrives.
It would be a lie to say that the entrance of Michelle Nash wasn’t jarring—after all, she’s taken on Julie Andrews’s iconic role, but has brown hair. While this causes simply an aesthetic jolt, some less superficial faults also make themselves apparent. While Nash has a strong, wide-ranging voice, it is sometimes too opera-meets-Broadway—and this conjures a sense of phoniness and creates a palpable disconnect between Maria and her co-stars and audience.
Perhaps due to time constraints, the first rendition of “Edelweiss”—normally performed by Captain von Trapp in the family living room—has been omitted. This wouldn’t have been an issue, if one of the daughters hadn’t said, “Remember that time we sang Edelweiss?” Well, we don’t, and now we’re wondering how we could have missed it. The song does, however, make an appearance in the last act.
While the production has a few imperfections, it also has its high points. The actors and actresses playing the seven von Trapp children display impressive timing and professionalism for their ages. As Gretl, tiny seven-year-old Hannah Levinson—who looks no older than five—steals hearts with her over-the-top cuteness and obvious excitement to be on the stage.
The set design, too, is effective. Lacking a variety of giant set pieces to switch among, set designer Michael Galloro keeps the background static. Using various props and decorations, he expertly and convincingly evokes several different locations.
While this won’t be the best or most memorable production you’ll see this year, it certainly has its merits. The classic story and songs, supported by a number of standout performances, are there to work their magic. If you’re looking for a good introduction to the world of musical theatre, this is the show for you.