On Stage: The Sound Of Music

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing theater reviews for around two decades now yet until last night I’d never seen that most musical of musicals — “The Sound of Music” — performed live on stage.

Oh, I’ve seen the movie. A few times in its entirety and countless times in bits and pieces. I’ve even attended the “Sing Along Sound of Music.” But the live version had somehow always eluded me until now.

While it made its Broadway debut in 1959, this classic collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II is best known for its 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

It’s based on the memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria von Trapp and tells the story of a young woman who is kicked out of a nunnery for being too spirited (not in the religious sense) so she’s sent off to serve as a governess to seven children. Their father, a strict disciplinarian and military man, finds Maria too chaotic at first but is soon drawn in by her siren songs about the joys singing. Oh, and the Second World War is looming in the background.

But then, you knew all that.

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“The Sound of Music” is now playing at the Fox Theatre. Matthew Murphy photo

So what separates the movie version from the stage show? Little things, mostly, but a few big things. I found the stage show moved at a much brisker pace, but maybe that’s because I usually watch the movie on television where it’s near 3-hour running time is padded an extra hour with commercials.

The stage version includes a couple of songs that were left out of the movie, and in turn the movie added songs that are not performed on stage. These “new” songs — sung by the Captain (Ben Davis), Elsa (Teri Hansen) and Max (Merwin Foard) — are certainly the weakest in the repertoire but they do shed more light on the Captain/Elsa relationship.

But hey, nobody wants to hear Elsa and Max sing anyway. This show is all about Maria (Kerstin Anderson), the kids (Paige Silvester, Jeremy Michael Lanuti, Maria Suzanne Knasel, Quinn Erickson, Svea Elizabeth Johnson, Mackenzie Currie and Audrey Bennett), and the Captain. They all deliver spirited versions of the classics — “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and so on.

The real vocal standout, though, is Melody Betts, playing the Mother Abbess. Her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was a real showstopper. And not just because it came at the end of Act One.

This production of “The Sound of Music” lives up to the show’s reputation. The cast and orchestra are terrific, the costumes are sharp, the set design is stylish. It’s a classic show that’s perfect for the whole family.

“The Sound of Music” runs through May 8 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

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