Sneak Preview Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC

by Lynn on May 27, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont.

Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Musical direction by Laura Burton
Designed by Michael Gianfrancesco
Lighting by Michael Walton
Sound by Peter Boyle
Starring: Shane Carty
Ben Carlson
Barbara Fulton
Anita Krause
Stephanie Rothenberg
Robin Evan Willis

The Sound of Music is maligned as a cheesy, sloppy-sentimental, cliché-ridden musical and Donna Feore’s sloppy, sentimental, cliché-ridden direction and choreography does nothing to dispel that description.

How do you solve a problem like The Sound of Music? How do you elevate the musical from its much maligned place as being overly sentimental, emotionally manipulative and cliché-ridden; where the sweet and innocent are flighty but eventually show spunk; where the bad guys bark and bray their evil. How do you deal with lyrics, albeit written by a master, that in many cases are absolutely mystifying? I mean, “To sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray” What does that mean? “Bright copper kettles” as a favourite thing? I don’t think so. Rheo Thompson chocolates definitely, but bright copper kettles? No.

With Donna Feore’s direction characters rarely look at the person to whom they are singing. Instead they wander the stage, suggesting the space is being well used (it’s not). Characters usually sing all their songs to the audience and not to the person for whom it’s meant. So you have the glorious Anita Krause as Mother Abbess, begin to sing “Climb Every Mountain” to a fragile Maria, only to leave her sitting in her chair upstage, as the Mother Abbess comes downstage to sing the rest of the song to the audience. For the rest of that song Maria is looking at the Mother Abbess’s back. (Sigh).

A quartet of energetic men flip and cartwheel through a gazebo for no apparent reason. Later they smack and kick their heels in an entertainment contest, suggesting clever choreography. It’s not. (sigh)

As Maria, Stephanie Rothenberg has charm and a pleasant voice. As Captain von Trapp, Ben Carlson seems almost out of place because he is giving a full-bodied, flesh and blood performance of person while many of the others are doing ‘stereotypical types’—the furious Nazi, the flamboyant friend—again direction.

Churlish? Criticism proof, you say? Sure. I just wish this production wasn’t so pedestrian. Would people like it less if it was better? It should be better.

Full review shortly.

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