Sonorous chants sung by the Nonnberg Abbey nuns echoed from the Granada stage as they somberly opened Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music on January 29. The musical draws from Maria von Trapp’s memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. In real life, Maria enrolled as a postulant nun and became a schoolteacher to a naval officer’s young children during Austria’s Nazi occupation, together fleeing to America shortly after. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers became a best-selling book, was adapted for Broadway in 1959 and fictionalized into the classic 1965 film we know today.
Act 1 painted Maria’s transition from the monastery to the outside world. Maria departs the religious life and is greeted by the enthusiastic von Trapp children, who harmonized splendidly in their “Do-Re-Mi” and “So Long, Farewell” numbers. Their military father, who firmly believes that “the best exercise is marching,” is quickly undone by Maria’s ability to inspire happiness and joy in his children. Upon realizing Captain von Trapp’s burgeoning romantic interest, Maria flees and returns to Mother Abbess,, who tells her, “You have to find the life you were born to live.”
Act 2 brought true conflict. Maria returns to the von Trapp family, who all faced the growing pressures of Nazi-infiltrated Austria. Jill-Christine Wiley (Maria) and Mike McLean (Captain von Trapp) gave stoic performances amid the strained atmosphere, all intensified by the disquieting red Nazi banners in the background. Maria and the von Trapps flee in the nick of time, embracing the mountains as the next journey toward their new lives.
Nothing was lost on the stagecraft in this Broadway musical. The set was beautifully lit: The church windows emulated Gothic stained glass windows, and the pastel landscape scenes exuded dreaminess. Together with the cast’s outstanding voices, the stage and the cast absolutely glowed.