Seriously, a musical about nuns and Nazis? The only other musical I know of about Nazis is the fictional Springtime for Hitler. And yet The Sound of Music is a vital part of the American canon, a Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece, a story of such iconic wholesomeness that it is practically a fairy tale, showcasing the coalescent power of music to orchestrate the movement of the soul.
Maria Rainer is a novice nun whose light heart and music-filled soul puts her slightly out of step with the rest of the Convent. The Mother Abbess (Jill Sharpe Compton) decides to send her to the home of Baron Georg von Trapp (Andre Softeland), a heroic but stern widower with an enormous brood of children, to serve as Governess. The kids are rambunctious, disobedient and miserable, and Maria (Katie Keyser) decides that the solution is to teach them her love of music. This horrifies the Baron, who seems to be against fun of any kind, but eventually she wins him over — in more ways than one. He calls off his upcoming marriage to the sophisticated Baroness Elsa Schrader (Jamie Ogden) and marries Maria, who has been released from her Order’s vows. Later, as a working musical troupe, they feel the hot breath of the Nazis in neighboring Germany. While Georg’s friends urge accommodation, he knows who they are, and is terrified for his family.
This, of course, is an enormously ambitious set of events to put on the stage; adding music simply amplifies the challenge. Compass Rose, a small teaching theater in Annapolis, is largely up to the task. The voices shine; Keyser is particularly sweet and crisp, and Softeland brings complexity and depth to a character who might be played as a caricature. His von Trapp is a tough, stoic military man, but he also is a man of deep feeling, for whom the descent of his native land into the clutches of the Nazi beast is both humiliating and heartbreaking. He makes “Edelweiss” into a funeral song; he is both remembering and saying goodbye to the Austria of his youth, and when he is done you know his life will never be the same. Mariel White, who plays the eldest daughter, Leisl, has a powerful, true voice which carries the character’s innocence while at the same time hinting at the dynamo she is about to become.
Not all the voices are as successful. Compton is generally good, but on the operatic “Climb Every Mountain” the vibrato in her voice seems strained at points. The remaining nuns (Maggie Leigh Walker, Lynn Garretson and Rebecca Dreyfuss) are uneven. They may improve, of course, in later performances.
The Sound of Music
Closes November 10, 2013
Compass Rose Theater
49 Spa Road
2 hours, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
The film version makes itself known in a couple of other ways. For example, instead of “No Ordinary Couple” we have the film’s “Something Good” to show us Maria and Georg, discovering that they are in love with each other. This production, unlike the film, retains “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It” — a smart decision, since those songs help us to understand Baroness Schrader and Georg’s friend Max Detweiler (Daniel Seifring). Odgen and Seifring infuse both songs with peppiness, giving each, and the show, some levity.
Everybody ought to see The Sound of Music at least once, and then, see it some more. Fortunately, to see this fine production, you will not have to climb every mountain or forge every stream. You won’t even, like the von Trapps, have to defect from your home country. You’ll just have to go to Annapolis.
The Sound of Music . Directed by Lucinda Merry-Browne; Musical Director Anita O’Connor; Featuring Katie Keyser, Andre Softeland, Mariel White, Daniel Starnes, Mallory Holson, Annabelle Cotton, Madelyn Schloss, Sarah Grace Clifton, Sophia Nasreen Riazi-Sekowski, Jill Sharpe Compton, Maggie Leigh Walker, Lynn Garretson, Rebecca Dreyfus, A.J. Whittenberger, Jamie Odgen, Daniel Seifring, and Will Cooke; with Accompanists Erika Knepp and Yee-Ning Soong (Piano) . Produced by Compass Rose Theater . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.
Danielle Angeline . MDTheatreGuide
Amanda Gunther . DCMetroTheaterArts
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