Theater Review: "The Sound of Music"

Director Jack O’Brien plays down the drama in the latest touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved last musical.
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BroadwaySD

The hills aren’t as alive as they used to be in Broadway San Diego’s touring version of “The Sound Of Music,” playing through Nov. 20 at Civic Theatre.

Director Jack O’Brien plays down the drama in the latest touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved last musical.

He also adds a series of puzzling arm movements and gestures to several songs – most notably “Do-Re-Me” – that I found more distracting than charming.

Maria, the novice nun (played with enthusiasm tonight by understudy Anna Mintzer) is both a joy and a problem for the Mother Abbess (played and sung spectacularly by Melody Betts) and the other nuns at Austria’s Nonnberg Abbey.

Maria’s a little casual about time and has an annoying habit of walking around singing – even in the abbey itself, a big no-no. But, as one nun puts it, she “makes me laugh.”

However, because she’s a bit of a flibbertigibbet, she’s sent off to play governess to the seven children of Austrian Navy submarine captain Georg von Trapp (Ben Davis), a widower.

The Captain (as he insists on being called) runs a tight ship, summoning the kids with a dog whistle and making them line up, military style. Maria is properly horrified at this and refuses the whistle he offers her. Instead, she teaches them to sing, dance, smile and even joke.

How long can she last?

Well, we all know the answer to that, and that this show is based on a true story about the Trapp Family Singers and Austria on the eve of the Anschluss in 1938.

This “Sound of Music” has lots of spiffy-looking sets that fly and are pushed in and out, of which the vaunted “hills” are only a small, distant part.

It’s difficult to understand the inspiration the music tells us they inspire.

But a bigger problem is that the show itself lacks drama.

This is a story about overcoming personal obstacles, new love and escaping the impending Nazi Anschluss – all major events in a life.

But here, everything seems to just happen on schedule, without much observable emotion or fear.

Even the escape to the hills at the end takes place without anybody chasing the family or getting much excited about it.

The kids are terrific, especially Liesl (Paige Silvester), whose “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” duet with Rolf (Austin Colby) is a charmer.

And little Gretl (Anika Lore Hatch) is adorable. But that’s not to slight the others – Roy Gantz, Ashley Brooke, Austin Levine, Iris Davies and Kyla Carter – who also pull their weight.

Most of the voices are just adequate.

The obvious exceptions are Betts’ Mother Abbess and Davis’ Georg, whose soaring and full voices are a pleasure to hear.

“The Sound Of Music” plays through Sunday.

The details

“The Sound of Music” plays through November 20, 2016 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Streets, downtown.

Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm

Tickets: Broadwaysd.com or (888) 937-8995.