Wednesday, August 10, 2016.
Special care has to be taken with things we know and love. When a musical has been introduced to the public in a very particular – and successful – way, it is assumed we will revisit very familiar territory in each subsequent production. There are many examples of these in today’s crop of touring shows.
Such, however, is not the case with “The Sound of Music.” Despite it having won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical, for the Broadway premiere in 1959, it’s the 20th Century Fox film version that most people know. Many assume stage productions are merely translations of the film onto the stage.
So the pleasure and thrill of mounting a brand new production of “The Sound of Music” is to go back to the beginning, see what started it all. That’s exactly what this production has done.
Our leader is a man uniquely positioned for the task of reinventing a classic musical.
Among the accolades that director Jack O’Brien has received over his long and varied career are three Tony Awards, for “Hairspray,” Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” and Tom Stoppard’s three-show epic “The Coast of Utopia.” That shows he knows history, form and show business.
He started by hand picking A-list collaborators and designers, who have among them five Tony Awards and 28 nominations, (and it should be noted, one Lifetime Achievement Tony): Jane Greenwood, Natasha Katz and Douglas W. Schmidt.
He also chose three young talents from Broadway: music supervisor Andy Einhorn, choreographer Danny Mefford, and sound designer Ken Travis. That pedigree made the task of assembling a cast just a little easier for casting director Rachel Hoffman. In the producing hands of the men and women of Networks, putting this show together became the kind of joyous experience you long for, but seldom actually achieve.
The result is a production in which the familiar is certainly present, but in which discoveries abound. And those discoveries are the kinds that come when a director dives into the text and score and asks the questions: Who are these people? Who is at risk? Who is in personal crisis? What is the subtext? What are these words actually saying? What is the music telling us?
This is indeed a brand new production of what has become the world’s most popular musical. Enjoy revisiting an old friend, or if this is your first time, welcome to the world of American musical theater at its absolute best.
Ted Chapin, president, Rodgers & Hammerstein
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