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The verdict is in. This gorgeous new equity tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music is a breathtaking and heartbreaking love song to the soul! Captained by Jack O’Brien, this new production had the opening night audience on our feet before the first bows were complete and for once in a long time I can attest this cast was well deserving of said standing ovation — everyone from the nun ensemble to O’Brien’s spectacular find, the riveting Kerstin Anderson (Maria), were all vocally strong and full of life and rich passion.
|Production photo credit: Matthew Murphy|
According to the playbill, O’Brien said that he was “looking at this show with emotion and love and sex in mind.” That is probably the first time I have heard of a director mention the sexuality of the show. Thankfully O’Brien’s choices were spot-on and brought a rich texture to the show that I had never seen before. Each character, from Anderson’s Maria Rainer to sweet Kyla Carter (Gretl) was well-rounded and brought something special to the show whether it was the innocent exuberance that Gretl exuded to the internal struggle of conscious felt by Ben Davis‘ Captain Georg von Trapp.
Jack O’Brien has created a star with his brilliant choice of casting leading lady, Kerstin Anderson, fresh out of her sophomore year at Pace University. This relatively unknown lady made the role of Maria her very own. Her performance is full of joy and youthfulness while also encompassing an old soul. Her exuberance and love for God, the Mother Abbess and the von Trapp family is contagious and comes naturally. I especially loved her interactions with Ashley Brown‘s Mother Abbess. We will be seeing this talented actor go far!
|Production photo credit: Matthew Murphy|
Her leading man, Ben Davis, was an excellent choice and a performance I believe the von Trapp family would be proud of. Unlike the classic portrayal of a stoic and stone-faced Captain von Trapp, Davis is quite lovable and no it is not just because this reviewer knows him personally, lol. What I especially loved about Ben’s performance were the quiet moments when you could see his internal conflict etched across that beautiful face, especially when hearing his children sing for the first time [you get the impression that perhaps he and his late wife had sung that song before and memories and pains are coursing through him] and during his gorgeous and emotionally charged Edelweiss.
Supporting actor, Ashley Brown, is the ultimate scene stealer and her youthful and loving older sister-younger sister relationship with Maria is stellar. Unlike the typical mother-daughter relation between the Mother Abbess and Maria that we are used to, the decision to cast a younger Mother Abbess was genius allowing for a deeper and closer relationship between the two ladies that had me crying in the finale (just sayin’). And don’t get me started on how incredible Ashley Brown’s voice is – from her first angelic note during the Preludium to her soaring Finale Ultimo, you will be captivated. Even in the rear of the Orchestra (Row U), my date and I could feel her magnificent voice swirling around us. Heavenly!
As for the rest of the supporting cast, they all were fantastic: Donna Garner with her sympathetic Frau Schmidt, Darren Matthias with his knowing looks, Paige Silvester and Dan Tracy as the sexually awakened teens, Carey Rebecca Brown, Julia Osborne and Elisabeth Evans who had great chemistry as Sisters Berthe, Margaretta and Sophia respectively and Teri Hansen and Merwin Foard (pictured left) as the excellent duo of Elsa Schraeder and Max Detweiler. Hansen’s Elsa was all things grace and charm that makes the political differences between Elsa and Georg alarmingly clear and Foard’s Max is genius. Their two numbers had the audience in stitches with laughter as they really seemed to grasp all the great irony and satire in the lyrics.
Special kuddos to the team behind the scenes. Douglas W. Schmidt‘s gorgeous backdrops should have received an applause in and of themselves while Natasha Katz‘ lighting design was spot-on. And big thanks to Ken Davis (Sound Designer), Jay Alger (Musical Director/Conductor) and Andy Einhorn (Music Supervisor) for filling the auditorium with the gorgeous music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II so that everyone could hear well and thoroughly enjoy the show!
So ladies and gents, I strongly urge you to RUN and grab your tickets for Sound of Music while it is on tour here in Los Angeles (through 31 October) and in the subsequent cities throughout the United States. This is a tour you do not want to miss! Perhaps we’ll even be lucky enough to get a Broadway Revival with this gorgeous cast. Enjoy!
Tickets (prices start at $25): www.CenterTheatreGroup.org (213) 972-4400
Location: The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 90012
Parking: $9 (Grand Avenue entrance)
Ben Davis (Captain von Trapp): Baz Luhrmann’s La Boheme. Track #8 is a personal favorite.
Ashley Brown (Mother Abbess): Solo album Speak Low. I LOVE each and every track.