Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music is a classic show from late in the Golden Age of Broadway musicals, made all the more iconic its 1965 cinematic rendition starring Julie Andrews. Since that version had its 50th anniversary this year, perhaps I’m a little burned out on singing nuns and hills being alive. But I have to admit, I’ve lost patience with the show, being presented at the Covedale Center this month.
Oh, it’s all there — two-and-a-half hours of familiar tunes, seven harmonic kids, their stoic, aloof father and the irrepressible Maria who melts his cold, broken heart. The Covedale production has a lot going for it, being co-directed by Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll, who certainly know their way around classic musicals. It features Helen Anneliesa Raymond-Goers as the postulant who can’t stop singing, and she has an incredible vocal range and forceful, crystalline delivery. The kids form a sweet ensemble, and their choreography (Bryll handles that aspect, too) and singing evoke satisfied smiles and warm chuckles from Covedale. “That little Gretl” — referring to Violet Hicks, age 6 — “is too cute for words,” I heard someone behind me observe. And she was right.
But I also had to listen to two people a few seats away sing along with most of the show’s tunes. There’s such a thing as being too familiar with a show, and The Sound of Music is one of the shows most likely to evoke such behavior. (If you want to sing along with Broadway shows, please head to Riverbend on June 6 when the Cincinnati Pops invites everyone to join in.)
But all in all, this production is simply too stodgy and predictable. Justin Glaser as Capt. Von Trapp is so stiff and formal that you can’t imagine why his kids care about him. Even when Maria warms him up, he’s still well below room temperature. The sisters and Mother Abbess (Angela Alexander Nalley) at Nonnberg Abbey have lovely voices, but they constantly sing straight out to the audience, seldom interacting as a dramatic ensemble. Even when she’s advising Maria, the Mother’s demeanor feels remote.
As Maria, Raymond-Goers jumps back and forth between being downright assertive and rude to anxiously questioning her every motive. Of course she’s a young woman, but such wide vacillation does not feel natural.
Laurie Wyant-Zenni brings an appropriate arch quality to her performance as Elsa Schrader, the Captain’s initial love interest, but it’s hard to imagine why he has been drawn to her. John Langley’s Max Detweiler is a loving manipulator, and he strikes the right balance in this supporting role.
The production is performed with almost no chorus roles, so events such as the lavish dinner party when the Von Trapp children debut their “So Long, Farewell” number seem to have no guests. The pre-recorded orchestral accompaniment sounds unnatural from start to finish and too often is out of balance with the singers’ voices. (At the matinee I attended there were problems with the miking for the younger children, several of whom were impossible to hear.)
There’s enough about The Sound of Music to keep audiences happy, but I hoped for more from the Covedale, which has done a fine job with classics such as this over the past several seasons. I’m certain some of these issues are the product of a modest budget, but if that’s a concern, perhaps the choice of shows needs to be considered more carefully.
Here’s my final “perhaps”: Perhaps I was in a grumpy mood and have seen one too many revivals of this classic musical. If so, forgive me.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC , presented by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through May 24.