The Sound of Music

Sure, you know the story and all the lyrics, but don't let your familiarity with The Sound of Music keep you away from Boulder's Dinner Theatre's stellar production and the relevancy this classic tale still brings to bear. As opera is to European culture, so the musical is to the American scene, and this final collaboration of Rogers and Hammerstein ranks right up there with Verdi and Puccini for drama, humor, and catchy tunes.

Perhaps the Austrian setting makes the similarities more apparent, with ancient religious and political forces coming to bear on the protagonists, but in the main it is the universality of the story that earns it a prominent place in the revival rotation.

Directed and choreographed by Scott Beyette, the production provides a polished take on all the key elements you would expect, plus a new angle that adds perspective to the moral lesson.

With over 160 grammar, middle, and high school kids auditioning for the eight available rolls, it's no suprise that Beyette and producer Michael Duran have two excellent sets of young actors to platoon with veteran company members, who fill all the key roles except for Maria.

Here, relative newcomer Christianna Sullins provides fresh, youthful energy as the irrepressible, mountain-wandering chanteuse, making it easy for us to understand Maria's emotional confusion between Christian virtue and romantic love. And while it's hard to live down a legend, Sullins is more attractive than the 24-year-old Julie Andrews (when she debuted this role on Broadway) and has a lyrical soprano that is clear and unwavering in the high register.

John Scott Clough, as Captain Georg von Trapp, brings a distinguished air to the handsome naval officer, and smoothly negotiates his conversion from a rigid, closed-off widower to a charming suitor. A.K. Klimpke has lots of fun with Max Detweiler, the freeloading impressario who "discovers" the von Trapps. Barb Reeves, as the Mother Abbess, delivers a well-paced, powerful rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."

The unusual bite in this production, though, comes from Shelly Cox-Robie's Elsa Schraeder, the wealthy widow who, for a time, appears certain to marry the Captain. Going back to Eleanor Parker's portrayal in the 1965 film adaptation, Elsa has traditionally been played as a cynic, willing to put up with any regime as long as her lifestyle remains unthreatened.

Cox-Robie, however, presents Elsa in a more positive light, sincere in her interest in the children and Maria, but simply compliant toward the Third Reich. This allows the irreconcilable issues between the Captain and herself to fall squarely on their political differences—a key theme echoed in Liesl and Rolf's relationship. What makes the von Trapps heroic is their refusal to accommodate fascism even if it means abandoning otherwise promising relationships and their homeland.

What results from this seemingly small twist is nothing less than the relevancy of The Sound of Music to our own situation, where rights and liberties are being destroyed by domestic forces that not only invested in and profited by the Nazi war machine (How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power and George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography), but continue operate contrary to the interests of the United States (The Bush-Saudi Connection).

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's The Sound of Music runs through August 31st. 303-449-6000.

Bob Bows


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