Carnegie Hall presented the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music on Tuesday evening as a gala fundraiser for the venue. In previous years, the Hall has presented similar concerts of Carousel and South Pacific. While this evening’s presentation of the score was not as memorable as those two previous outings (that Carousel wasn’t recorded is simply a crime – it was a dazzling success), it was a pleasure hearing those gorgeous songs performed live with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Inspired by actual events, The Sound of Music was originally a stage vehicle for Mary Martin and later a blockbuster film starring Julie Andrews. It tells the story of a young postulant who becomes governess to seven children under the stern command of their Naval officer father. Throw in some feisty nuns and some evil Nazis and you’ve got the ingredients for a spectacular audience favorite.
The orchestrations in the program are credited solely to Robert Russell Bennett, but there were several pieces that sounded like Irwin Kostal’s arrangements for the film, including main title which was used as an overture for the evening (the stage show begins promptly with the haunting “Preludium”), “Do-Re-Mi” and the lower key version of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” I was pleasantly surprised to see the score presented in its original 1959 order. Maria and the Mother Abbess shared “My Favorite Things” in the Abbey, while Maria sang “The Lonely Goatherd” during the thunderstorm, etc. For the concert, “I Have Confidence” was added and “Something Good” replaced “An Ordinary Couple.”
Laura Osnes made for a sweet if somewhat bland Maria, singing well but without the spark that has made others so indelible in the role. Tony Goldwyn was a vocally weak and colorless Captain. Met Opera mezzo and fan favorite Stephanie Blythe gave the evening’s master class in singing, with a stirring rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Brooke Shields couldn’t quite handle the vocal demands of Elsa, but carried herself with grace and glamour, earning exit applause. (Fans of the film may be surprised how much more politicized and nicer the character is on stage). Patrick Page practically purred his way through Max’s lines. Veanne Cox, Cotter Smith and Reed Birney were on hand for smaller roles, while Daniel Truhitte, Nicholas Hammand, Kym Karath and Heather Menzies (of the film) made brief cameos. Special mention to the Women of the Mansfield University Concert Choir, who supplied breathtaking renditions of the liturgical music in the show.
Gary Griffin staged the concert (performed completely off-book), but while the evening was well-paced, the energy was inconsistent. David Ives provided the concert adaptation of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s original book, which didn’t make much of a case for a full-fledged revival. Joshua Bergasse provided the small amounts of choreography seen throughout the evening, most notably the “Laendler.” A misstep was using projections of Austrian pictures and site specific locales from the film against the back wall of the Stern Auditorium’s stage. These pictures, presented in a sort of widescreen panorama distracted from the performers. The cast wore concert attire that suggested at character; the only dirndls to be found were those audience devotees who dressed up.