From the beginning of Center Stage’s presentation of The Sound of Music when the Mother Abbess, played by Emily Field, joins the nuns to sing the Preludium, The Sound of Music establishes itself as an intimate production as opposed to the vastness of the movie version where, early on, Maria sings the theme song as the camera pans over the unending vista of mountains that will provide an escape route for the Von Trapp family at a later time.
The play cannot portray vastness, but Center Stage portrays intimacy quite well. The mountains are a static backdrop but the focus is on the people, particularly the Von Trapp children, portrayed the night that I saw it by Olivia Passafiume (Liesl); Michael Evans (Freidrich); Haley Doerr (Louisa); Emerson Walker (Kurt); Isabelle Langford (Brigitta); Lexie Stites (Marta); and Olivia Ashley (Gretl).
Elsa Schraeder, played by Colette Delaney becomes softer, if eminently practical, and Max Detweiler, played by Sam Mannino becomes less of a clown and more of a human being with a dilemma on his hands.
This play is less saccharine than the movie and more political. The Nazis are cardboard cut-out villains, but at least they are not refugees from Hogan’s Heroes and this is a story about escape from evil and not just another love story.
Ultimately, though, this is about Maria Rainer, caught between her love of God and Captain Von Trapp. Maria, played with panache by Lauren Le Blanc, is up to the task and Captain Von Trapp, played by Rusty Henle, is appropriately stodgy.
Overruling even the ultimate (if that is possible) is the music. Critics from 1959, which marked its initial stage presentation, until the present, have praised and damned the music and its message as either cloyingly sweet or wonderfully appropriate, but, to me, the lyrics fit the show like a glove.
How can one argue with “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” or, better still, the lesser known, “Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” or “Follow every rainbow till you find your dream,” or, in the last song Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote, “Edelweiss, Edelweiss, Every morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, You look happy to meet me?”
Sure, it’s sentimental and, in the middle of the 1960’s, a decade of chaos, that’s what millions of people wanted to hear and that’s why the audience at CenterStage gave the cast a standing ovation the night I was there. Love nailed the Nazis and there’s not much wrong with that.
This ends the 2013-14 season at Centre Stage but the new season starts in June. Get your season tickets now!