By William Ferrall, Contributing Writer
What makes “The Sound of Music” endure as an exemplar of musical theater unfolds with conviction in its current production at Theatre Workshop of Nantucket.
The solemn opening preludium flows from the nuns’ chorus of crystal- clear voices, then is leavened by Maria’s rendition of the familiar theme song. An animated “Maria” follows, setting the stage for her conflict and leading us to the von Trapp household. By play’s end, we’re emotionally all in for the Trapps to survive the sturm und drang of the German army advancing to their doorstep, with startling onstage reminders of Nazi armbands and banners.
This irresistible story of perseverance and courage, told with few diversions, and underscored by unforgettable melodies and lyrics, continues to find fans.TWN delivers superbly for its audiences, with some of the finest singing voices ever heard on Nantucket stages by a mixed professional and volunteer company.We’re reminded how satisfying it can be to hear live voices to captivate and touch us.
For those who’ve forgotten or might not know, the origins of “The Sound of Music” started decades before its Broadway debut 58 years ago. Originally conceived as a straight play, writers Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse changed many details of the actual Trapp family story for dramatic effect. Producers brought on board the accomplished musical-theater team of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein ll to add original songs, which evolved into a complete, new musical.
Hammerstein died in 1960, but Rodgers added the songs 'I Have Confidence' and 'Something Good' for the 1965 movie version. Sometimes omitted from staged versions of “The Sound of Music,” both are heard in the Nantucket production, along with heart-warmers “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,”“Edelweiss,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and more.
“The Sound of Music” continues to be a paragon of musical theater. Critics first disparaged the new musical, with New York Times reviewer Brooks Atkinson calling it “hackneyed” and an example of “. . . the American stage succumbing to the clichés of operetta.”
Forget the naysayers then and now.
TWN director Justin Cerne and his cast, especially those in leading roles, add nuances that distinguish this “Sound of Music” from misguided or run-of-the-mill versions.