The Sound of Music
@ Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Through Aug. 2
The Sound of Music is enduring as a piece of musical theater because it promotes a certain feeling of exuberance. Yes, it's sentimental, condenses history for storytelling purposes and even rewrites the geography of Austria in the climax (you aren't getting to Switzerland over those Alps), but at its heart, it's a simple story about finding joy and bonding as a family. Also, cute singing kids.
N.C. Theatre's production of The Sound of Music is at its best when it focuses on the joy of performing. The story occasionally feels limited by the confines of the Memorial Auditorium stage (the von Trapps have roughly two tombstones to hide behind while they're being hunted by the Nazis), but when the actors perform, their energy is terrific.
Broadway veteran Kate Fisher is a great Maria; the image of Julie Andrews in the 1965 film is impossible to erase, but Fisher nails the combination of childlike enthusiasm and matronly patience that defines the character. As Captain von Trapp, fellow Broadway vet Tom Galantich has less to do, though he acquits himself well in such numbers as "Edelweiss." Fayetteville native Suzanne Ishee, as Mother Abbess, aces the first-act curtain number, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." The von Trapp children, all from Raleigh, perform admirably.
What's most interesting about watching this staging of an extremely familiar tale is realizing that while many of the songs are indelibly imprinted in our brains, there actually aren't that many distinct songs in the show. Most of the major numbers ("My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," etc.) are reprised throughout the musical. It's interesting to see how the relatively complex book allows musical numbers to build out of dramatic scene-setting, as opposed to the relentless singing from start to finish that characterizes most contemporary musicals. That might be the most old-fashioned aspect of The Sound of Music, but N.C. Theatre's production proves that this Rodgers and Hammerstein warhorse still has the power to move and entertain an audience.