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The very first professional theater production that I ever saw was when I was in the seventh grade. My mother, my aunt and I went to a production of "The Sound of Music" which was presented at Musicarnival in suburban Cleveland. Musicarnival was a theater-the-round in a large tent that seated over 2500 people. Each summer between 1958 and 1975 they presented Broadway musicals and operettas. I still vividly remember that performance.
"The Sound of Music" premiered on Broadway in 1959 and was the last collaboration of the great musical theater duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein. (Hammerstein died from cancer nine months after the premiere.) The same year that I saw the stage production at Musicarnival, the Hollywood version of the show was released. Today it is the movie that is indelibly imprinted upon most people's minds, and Julie Andrews will always be remembered as Maria. (Most do not know that Mary Martin, one of the leading musical actresses of her era, originally performed the lead role on Broadway.)
On Thursday some friends and I went to a performance of "The Sound of Music" at the Palace Theater in Cleveland's Playhouse Square. It was a touring production that has been traveling across the country since 2015, and their final performances are here in Cleveland.
This was the Broadway, not the Hollywood, version of the show. It was interesting to hear my friends' reactions to the differences from the movie that we know so well. For example, "My Favorite Things" is sung early in the show between Maria and the Mother Abbess... not in the scene where the frightened children come into Maria's room during a thunderstorm. Instead, Maria distracts the children by singing "The Lonely Goatherd"... and, no, there were no marionettes involved. There are two songs which never made it to the movie. In the wittily sophisticated "How Can Love Survive?", Captain von Trapp and his potential fiancée Elsa discuss the fact the all the famous love affairs have been between impoverished, struggling couples. ("In all the famous love affairs the lovers have to struggle, in garret rooms away upstairs the lovers starve and snuggle.") In the cynical "No Way to Stop It" Elsa and Max try to persuade the Captain that he should collaborate with the Nazis who are taking over Austria. In fact, here the break-up between the Captain and Elsa is due to their political differences. It has been suggested that if those two songs had been included in the movie, the film would not have been criticized for being "too sugary sweet".
So how was the production? It was very enjoyable. Of course, there is no way that the theatrical play can duplicate the movie's gorgeous cinematography of the Alps and the city of Salzburg, but the stage settings were very nicely done. All of the actors had good singing voices. I found the young actress who played the eldest daughter Liesl to be more appealing than the actress in the movie. The Mother Abbess had a powerful voice and brought down the house with "Climb Ev'ry Mountain". My only disappointment was with the actress who played the lead role of Maria. I understand that she was trying to portray Maria as she is characterized by the nuns... "a flibbertigibbet, a will-o'-the-wisp, a clown." But I think that she overdid the clownishness a bit. In one review, she was criticized as being too "American". Indeed, with her accent, at times she sounded more like a Kansas farm girl than an Alpine "fraulein". In spite of this minor criticism, it was a wonderful show.
A couple bits of trivia about the real Von Trapp family. Maria von Trapp admitted that she did not fall in love with the Captain; she married him because she had fallen in love with the children. With time however, she did come to love her husband. Also it was Maria, not the Captain, who was the disciplinarian in the family. And finally, they did not escape across the mountains on foot. They simply got on a train to Switzerland. But, of course, that would be much less dramatic.