Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Sound of Music"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Christopher Harding

"The Sound of Music"

Reviewed by Christopher Harding

A picturesque new version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," the evergreen true story of the singing von Trapp family, brings the king of the miniseries back to the stage of the Colonial Theatre. Richard Chamberlain, who delighted Colonial audiences with his rendition of Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady," again tours with the lady who starred opposite him as Liza . The winsome Meg Tolin, now plays Maria, the mountainside-roaming novice who ends up married to a naval captain.

Chamberlain is topbilled in the production, which at first blush seems a little awkward since Maria is the central character. Nevertheless he is always the commanding presence, though he is never overbearing. Though best known as a TV star, his experience doing legitimate theater is always evident in the way he expresses so much with a single penetrating glance or eloquent gesture.

His sleek refinement is matched by that of Rachel de Benedet, who is faultless in the role of the Baroness… playing it much more sympathetically than usual. It's a shame that the plot requirements separate them for they are alike as a pair of champagne flutes. The very appealing Meg Tolin is directed to be a little too tomboyish and like most of the cast, except Chamberlain, does not seem even remotely German.

However, no show featuring seven singing kids can go wrong especially when they harmonize such beloved tunes as "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things," "The Lonely Goatherd," and "So Long, Farewell."

The 1998 revival shuffles some of the songs around adding material from the movie version, but not to much effect. Despite the authenticity of Catherine Zuber's costumes and the looming mountains in Heidi Ettigener's scenery, the show has a certain air of artificiality, epitomized by show curtain, which pictures the town in a snowglobe. Director Susan Shulman strikes some false notes when she directs scenes in Catholic churches, but she gets the chemistry between Maria and the children right.

Despite these drawbacks, the whole ensemble give dignified, lowkey performances that allow music to emerge as the major element in the show, just as its creators intended.

"The Sound of Music" (till 7 November)
106 Boylston Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide