How could my husband and I resist the opportunity to see the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s presentation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s last work, The Sound of Music, now 55 years old? Fortunately we couldn’t, nor should you. This was an amazing, brilliant, moving, inspiring and beautiful production. The wish to bring “new blood” to Lyric seemed to be realized when, looking around, I saw an audience that seemed to be about one-quarter young people. There were young children and teens, some with families. There were older people alone and in groups. This is a show that has appeal for everyone.
I always like to go to the Lyric Opera website before attending a performance. A few days ago, I enjoyed hearing the discussion between Anthony Freud, Sir Andrew Davis, and Renée Fleming, as they previewed The Sound of Music ( Look and Listen )I was interested in their discussion as they noted that of the Rogers and Hammerstein works, this is the one that is most “operetta – like”, that this production is very different from the movie, and that Rogers and Hammerstein are to musicals as Puccini is to opera.
The Sound of Music with music by Richard Rogers (and lyrics for “I have Confidence” and “Something Good”), Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II from a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse that was suggested by The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp (the heroine of the musical) opened in New York on November 16, 1959 and is first performed by Lyric Opera on April 25, 2014. Perhaps because it is based on a true story, it is especially poignant and powerful, even bringing tears to the eyes of many members of the audience.
The Sound of Music begins before WWII, in Salzburg, Austria – 1938, and tells the story of a young girl, Maria who is orphaned and is in training to be a nun at the Abbey there. The Mother Abbess is concerned about Maria’s commitment to the convent because Maria is drawn to the mountains, often has trouble with convent rules and neglects her convent duties. To help Maria better evaluate her own feelings about herself and her commitment to the convent, the Mother Abbess assigns Maria to serve as a governess for the von Trapp family because Captain von Trapp travels frequently, taking him away from his seven children whose mother has passed away. The story moves on to tell about the children, who have driven many other governesses away, and how Maria captivates the children. It progresses to reveal the developing relationship between Maria and the Captain. Finally, the family’s escape from Austria to avoid being taken over by the Nazis becomes suspenseful as the musical ends. However, in the Opera Notes in the Lyric program, there is an article entitled, "Something Good: The Joys of the Sound of Music", in which Roger Pines tells the real story of the von Trapp family, how they reached the U.S. and performed for two decades and how this wonderful musical came into being.
This Lyric production features film star Billy Zane* as Captain von Trapp, Broadway star Jenn Gambatese* as Maria, TV/Stage veteran Edward Hibbert* as Max Detweiler, and international opera stars Christine Brewer as the Mother Abbess and Elizabeth Futral as Elsa Schraeder in a new production from director Marc Bruni* and set designer Michael Yeargan! Other key members of the creative team include: Rob Fisher*, Conductor, Alejo Vietti*, Costume Designer, Denis Jones*, Choreographer, and Michael Black, Chorus Master with lighting design by Duane Schuler, and sound design by Mark Grey.
Though Lyric is presenting the original 1959 stage production of The Sound of Music there are a few additions. Four songs are included, two that weren’t included in the movie: “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It,” and two written for the movie, “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good,” (“Something Good” replaces “An Ordinary Couple” from the original stage show).
What made this production so wonderful? The characters were well defined and relatable, with fine acting as well as singing. The sets were unbelievable, complex and detailed, some heavy sets and curtains, and absolutely seamlessly changed, taking us from a church to the hills. The costumes were fabulous. The lighting and staging were perfect and the thunderstorm very realistic. The choreography, staging, and dancing were wonderful. The singing was beautiful and it was so comfortable to know most of the songs.
Jenn Gambatese was a very convincing Maria, Billy Zane’s clear prununciation speaking and singing made for easy listening, Christine Brewer’s voice stood out and her acting and presence were has trouble perfect, Nicole Scimeca as the youngest child, Gretl was irresistible and even the program was special with a puzzle page to appeal to the children in the audience. Edward Hibbert as Max Detweiler and Elizabeth Futral as Elsa Shraeder skillfully brought a touch of comedy. I strongly recommend you find a way to see this production. If you do, you will enjoy it twice-once on stage and then at home when the gorgeous songs run through you mind. I heard one audience member say this might be the best production he has ever seen.
Image by Todd Rosenberg Photography unless otherwise noted.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE AND TICKETS
Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music in 25 performances only at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 25- May 18,with the following schedule: Friday, April 25 at 7pm; Saturday, April 26 at 7pm; Sunday, April 27 at 1:30pm; Wednesday, April 30 at 1:30pm and 7pm; Friday, May 2 at 8pm; Saturday May 3 at 1:30 and 7pm; Sunday, May 4 at 1:30pm; Tuesday, May 6 at 7pm; Wednesday, May 7 at 1:30pm; Thursday, May 8 at 1:30 and 7pm; Friday, May 9 at 7pm; Saturday, May 10 at 1:30 and 7pm; Sunday, May 11 at 1:30pm; Tuesday, May 13 at 1:30pm; Wednesday, May 14 at 1:30pm; Thursday, May 15 at 1:30 and 7pm; Friday, May 16 at 7pm; Saturday, May 17 at 1:30 and 7pm; and Sunday, May 18 at 1:30pm.
NOTE:Performances have been added through May 25, Memorial Day Weekend - 29 performances total.
Single tickets, which start at $29, can be purchased at the Civic Opera Box Office at 20 N. Wacker Drive; by visiting the Lyric website (24 hours a day); or by calling 312-827-5600 (M-F, 9-5; Sa. 10-5).
The new Lyric Opera production of The Sound of Music is generously made possible by Exclusive Corporate Sponsor Northern Trust. Cosponsors: An Anonymous Donor, Brent and Catherine Gledhill, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, Mr. and Mrs. W. James Farrell, Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills, and The Neundorf Trusts in Memory of Maynette V. Neundorf and John K. Neundorf.
For more information on the Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, please visit the sound of music website.