The “Sound of Music” was one of the last musicals from a period called “The Golden Age of Musicals,” (1940s-1950s). It was a time dominated by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Like the earlier MMT production, “Gypsy,” it is a book musical, requiring good acting skills. This one, with book by Howard Lindsay/Richard Crouse, is no exception.
Most musicals center on a love story. I am grateful for Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, N.J., bringing us this production because the powerful story can get overwhelmed by the music and production values. “The Sound of Music” is not a simple boy meets girl. It is more complex. It is a triple love story. We have the love between (1) a couple and their love of family, (2) the love of country and (3) the love of God and the distinction between right and wrong. We are all familiar with the wonderfully rich music and lyrics.
“The Sound of Music” has been an annual television event for years. What surprises could there be? Well … I was moved in this production by the honest acting moments, along with the wonderful singing from the two leads, Sally Bethmann as Maria, the novice nun who is sent to be a governess at the home of a retired Austrian military captain, and Eric Snyder as Captain Von Trapp, the aforementioned military man. The story is, of course, about Maria who seems unready to be a nun and is sent by Mother Superior to the home of Captain Von Trapp to be a governess, where she is to contemplate on whether the convent is right for her.
She falls in love with the captain and his family at the time of the Nazi takeover of Austria. When you first meet Sally Bethmann as Maria, you may think, “She doesn’t look like Julie Andrews.” And that is good. Andrews never looked like Maria Von Trapp. Bethmann doesn’t sing a false note or act one. Her performance is honest and genuine and the awkward moments between her and Snyder as the Captain are perfect. They lead into the captain falling in love with her, which Snyder and Bethmann accomplish by lovingly and comfortably being in the moment.
Libby Kane is the Mother Superior who sings “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” a song meant to start as soft as a morning prayer and end with rapture, capturing an ever-escalating sound soaring in high notes and volume. Kane wonderfully captures the kindness of the abbess and helps Maria find her true self. Kudos, also, to Bill Weir (Max) and Audrey Casebier (Baroness) who get to sing two fun, lesser-known songs, “No Way to Stop It” and “How Can Love Survive?”
The children are all as adorable as expected. A shout out to Devon Miller for the choreography done in “Do-Re-Mi,” “Goatherd” and “You Are Sixteen.” The latter had two scene stealers in it, with Kate Jones (Liesl) and Zachary McDevitt (Rolf). Their secondary romance in the show is lovely and culminates in the garden of the convent. Emily Cooper as Sister Margaretta excels in that scene, as well. Amanda Romig as Sister Berthe and Rachel Fingles as Sister Sophia make up, with Cooper, the sisters who do “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” They are heavenly. And the answer to that question is “You Don’t.” Instead, you buy a ticket to “The Sound of Music” and support this worthwhile theater that continues to do good work.
The hills are alive with the sound of music. Jordan Brenner directed. Tickets can be purchased at musicmountaintheatre.org. The show runs through April 24.