IF YOU GO
What: Beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a nun hired as governess for the von Trapp children
When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinees through April 6.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $27 to $55
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
Sitting in a darkened house, listening to the scrape of chairs, the clink of glasses and the rustle of napkins, you forget just how charming "The Sound of Music" can be.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II could write songs.
Not the bland, vaguely pop ditties of today's musical theatre. But tunes that audiences cherish for five decades and counting.
Proof? Once Paige Mattox begins to sing, you'll understand why the hills have come alive. These tunes lift you up, carry you, dance with you, remind you that life can be hopeful, beautiful and glorious.
Broadway Palm aims squarely at big, bold crowd pleasers this year; "South of Music" represents the latest in that strand. A strong, if not exceptional, production, the show offers plenty of delights, a star turn from Mattox, a handful of cute kids and songs you never knew you forgot.
The musical came first, in 1959, before Julie Andrews ever put on a habit, cut up the drapes and kissed Christopher Plummer in the gazebo. An Austrian nun, Maria, lands a spot as governess to the von Trapp family in the days before World War II. She teaches the children music and Captain von Trapp to appreciate life after his first wife's death.
Mattox, quite simply, captivates. Effortless trills, a winning smile and her winsome manner bring to mind the easy, graceful allure that Andrews brought to the big screen. Her Maria dances across mountains, sings with the Mother Abbess and thoroughly enchants the children. Mattox broadcasts a radiance that envelopes her character and the audience - and charms anyone and everyone in the theater.
As familiar as "The Sound of Music" might be, each lift of the curtain brings a new adventure, a new tune.
I defy anyone not to smile during "My Favorite Things." "Do-Re-Mi" sees Mattox and the children romping the stage, while "Lonely Goatherd" finds them hiding in bed from a ferocious thunderstorm. Tender "Edelweiss" laments the loss of Austria to the Germans.
Alfrelynn Roberts brings a wise, knowing attitude to her senior nun. "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" becomes an anthem in her soul-stirring tones. She also leads the jolly, happy "(How Do You Solve A Problem Like) Maria;" you forget just how much pure fun the show's songs are!
Paul Bernier and Amanda Morgan offer comic relief as over-the-top Max Detwiler and Elsa Schraeder. Their "No Way to Stop It" number with Rob Watson's Captain von Trapp subtly lays out the threat of the oncoming Nazi storm.
Dean Sobon (director) and Lauren Loercher-Sobon (assistant director/choreographer) faced a task in wrangling two separate sets of child actors. All roles except the eldest, Leisl (a delightful Lydia Pusateri) are double cast. The von Trapp youngsters feel reasonably natural on stage, have good energy and great voices. I wish the children did display slightly more pep, although this may come as the show settles in.
Craftsmanship of the highest quality went into creating "The Sound of Music." Broadway Palm fronts a beautiful production - with gorgeous backdrops, ethereal visions of nuns changing with lighted candles and green mountains stretching into the distance. The Richard Rodgers sounds coming from Loren Strickland's band reminds you of what music was - and makes you swat the car radio off in anger.
If the show has a fault, it is only that it can seem static and dated by comparison. In the nearly 55 years since "The Sound of Music" debuted on Broadway, musical theatre has changed - for better or for worse. No huge dance numbers decorate the show. No real show-stoppers. Not even a finale - just "So Long, Farewell" in the concert hall and a brief reprise of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." These things would be out of place on the mountain, to be sure, but it didn't stop the woman next to me from downing two carafes of wine and checking her phone every ten minutes. The pace can be a touch slow, especially if you're used to "A SPECTACTULAR MUSICAL SPECTACULAR."
Relax. Slow down. Savor "The Sound of Music." This one is worth it.
How DO you solve a problem like Maria? Email me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.