With so many ways to enjoy springtime in Chicago, The Sound of Music, currently being performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago, should certainly make your list of to dos. With acting heavyweight, Billy Zane, and Broadway star, Jenn Gambatese, leading the way, audience members are treated to a most memorable performance of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic that will have you singing that catchy little “Do Re Mi” days after you’ve seen the show.
As a general rule for success with this particular musical, it’s safe to say that to truly bring "The Sound of Music" alive on stage, a strong supporting cast is utterly essential, but most important of all, the show requires a vibrant “Maria” who exudes wholesome fun and is convincing as a free spirit. Done and done. Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of “The Sound of Music” has not only put together a brilliant surrounding cast from top to bottom, but has also struck gold with leads Billy Zane as “Captain Von Trapp” and Jenn Gambatese as “Maria Rainer”. Not only are the two vocally right for the roles; their chemistry together is nothing short of magical, adding a very believable element to this timeless story of love for family and country. And, yes, to alleviate any doubt, if any at all – yes, Billy Zane can sing, and quite well at that. Zane especially makes it crystal clear that he’s not just a big Hollywood name used to sell a show during his gripping vocal performance of “Edelweiss”. I should also mention that his acting was right on the mark too, but that should have already been expected. So, in a nutshell, Zane is surprisingly perfect as “Captain Von Trapp”.
Lyric Opera of Chicago has succeeded with this production and then some.
Gambatese grabs the audience immediately after her opening number, “The Sound of Music”. And though it is not yet clear where this “Maria” will take us, it doesn’t take long to find out. During her next song, “I Have Confidence”, her talents really stand out and her sparkling personality now officially beams throughout the house. At that point, it is apparent she has thoroughly captured the entire crowd.
The seven Von Trapp children are immediately likeable and, like the rest of the cast, more than vocally efficient. Christine Brewer adds a tasty punch as “The Mother Abbess” boasting her incredible vocal range while Edward Hibbert (of Frasier fame) is a sheer delight as “Max Detweiler”. Other standout performances would include Betsy Farrar as “Liesl” and Elizabeth Futral as “Elsa Schraeder”.
The set design is stunning as the audience is taken inside the Abbey then into different areas of the Von Trapp mansion and its courtyard. The set changes are equally impressive. One highlight has the stage seamlessly transformed from the mansion living room into the very festival in which the performing Von Trapp Singers escape from Nazi occupied Austria.
Many productions of “The Sound of Music” have come and gone and some have stood out more than others. This current production is one that stands at the top. A perfect Spring treat or a family night out, "The Sound of Music" at Lyric Opera of Chicago is an unforgettable experience that you can relish over and over again. This is a show that anyone of any age can enjoy.
"The Sound of Music" is being performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago through May 25th. For tickets, performance times and/or more information, visit http://www.lyricopera.org/.
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