Theater Review: The Sound of Music at the Eccles

I had a friend in high school who had only ever seen the first half of The Sound of Music. Back then, the film version came on two VHS tapes and her family, for some reason didn’t have the second tape. Like the theater version, which opened Tuesday night at the Eccles Theater to a full house, the first act (tape) ends with Maria fleeing her feelings for Captain von Trapp and returning to Nonnberg Abbey. (Sorry, there aren’t really spoilers for The Sound of Music are there?) The second tape (or act) is when Maria and Captain von Trapp get married, the Nazis try to pressgang the good captain into the German Navy and the family escapes into the Alps. Basically, all my high school friend knew was that Maria went back to the abbey and that was that.

I think I would have preferred that version instead of last night’s interminable slog.

The Sound of Music is an old-fashioned play, traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein, so I don’t expect a lot of pyrotechnics, people flying on wires or giant Lion King puppets. But as a lover from a young age of this musical, I expected to enjoy some old time-y fun and nostalgia. Instead, what we got on opening night, at least, was a touring cast just going through the motions and ticking the boxes.

Maria (Jill-Christine Wiley) was flat and without emotional range. I mean I guess she fell in love with Captain von Trapp (Mike Mclean) but who could tell? Well they told us. So that’s how we knew. McLean is as wooden as a ship. In the scene where Maria and the von Trapp children open the captain’s heart with, yes, the “Sound of Music,” the only shift we saw in was him merely saying how moved he was. Plus, whats up with him just dumping his sexy fiancé, Else Schraeder (Melissa McKamie) and then hooking up with nanny, like, mere seconds after she leaves? I mean I know she was a Nazi sympathizer and all, but you two had plans!

The kids are dull as the curtains Maria makes them outfits from. When they sang “So Long, Farewell,” which happens TWICE in the play, I was like: “go to bed already!”

The evening’s highlight and impressive saving grace was the commanding vocal virtuosity of Lauren Kidwell’s Mother Abbess who closes out both acts with a big-time rendition of a big-time song “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” That nun can sing folks and her two performances of this song were among the few times I felt the restless audience snap to attention. It might have also been because she closes out the first act and the play with this song, cue for everyone to head for the exits. The Sound of Music ain’t over until the head nun sings.

It’s hard right? I don’t want to hate on The Sound of Music, But, achtung baby, I go to the theater to be entertained, moved and in the case of this play, enjoy the nostalgia of a childhood treasure. By the end of this production, I was rooting for the Nazis.

The Sound of Music continues at The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater through March 4, 2018. For tickets and details visit here.

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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