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Buzz News Chicago: Theatre and Concert Reviews

Chicago is alive with the sound of music, thanks to the return of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical now playing at Cadillac Palace that comes with a delightfully vibrant cast and an orchestra that is able to capture the uttermost essence of the original score. Directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, The Sound of Music is in town for just a limited engagement so if you’d like to take in one of the most enduring musicals of all time, you had better act quickly.

Most know the story that takes place in World War II Austria where a “rebellious” nun-to-be, Maria, is sent by the Abbey to the home of the widowed Captain von Trapp, a wealthy and successful Naval officer, to act as the governess for his seven children. She enters a strict household where there is no longer a place for music but rather is closer to the environment found on one of the Captain’s sea vessels. This is a tightly run ship, where orders are barked and children answer to whistle tones. No one dares oppose the way the Captain runs his household, that is, of course, until Maria enters the picture. As the story progresses, Maria kind-heartedness slowly breaks through to the Captain and a whirlwind of love story takes place as the two realize they have eyes for each other.    

With the Third Reich threatening to take over Austria and enlist the Captain’s services, the story takes another turn when the head of the Von Trapp household refuses to support the Nazi ideal. The Sound of Music is a classic love story adventure that has won the hearts of millions not just by its compelling story but by its sensational soundtrack. 

Usually, it is the role of Maria that runs away with the story and is relished and admired so much by its audience. However, in this case, Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp is so dynamic, both vocally and in his acting performance, that so say he stole the show would be a heavy understatement. Displaying a vocal range from a seasoned baritone to a gifted soprano, while so well capturing the essence of a hardened man softened then transfixed by the love, forgiveness and admiration of a young woman, Davis makes one wonder if it is possible to play the role of Captain von Trapp any better. 

But you do need a strong Maria or the play cannot work - period. Kerstin Anderson as Maria is strong indeed. Probably taking the role a bit on the nerdy side in a bit of a twist, Anderson still has the warmth and charm, and is frankly…likeable. Able to harness the much-needed free-spirited persona into her character with seemingly natural ease, she certainly flows gracefully in her role, and she, like Davis, can also belt. 

The supporting roles are also well cast from the Melody Betts as the Mother Abbess to Merwin Foard as the wheeling and dealing Max Detweiler. Talented too are the child actors who make up The Family von Trapp, particularly Paige Sylvester who plays Liesl and also Dan Tracy as Rolf Gruber, her love interest. Sylvester and Tracy especially light up the stage during their inspiring number “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. 

With such amazing songs as “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “The Sound of Music” and “Edelweiss”, we are literally treated to one great after another. The Sound of Music is without question both vocally and visually entertaining. The set beautifully depicts the von Trapp mansion, helping to bring this wonderful story to life.

To put it simply, you won’t want to miss this one. 

The Sound of Music is being performed at Cadillac Palace through just June 19th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

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/. 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

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