That Rodgers & Hammerstein stalwart, “The Sound of Music”, is being enthusiastically embraced by audiences at the Ivoryton Playhouse where this sentimental classic is currently in residence in a mostly mediocre revival. The hills may be alive, but this rendering rarely comes to life. At a running time of nearly three hours on opening night, it proved to be a long sit.
With music by Rodgers, lyrics by Hammerstein and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, the musical is suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria von Trapp. It is Maria (Adrianne Hick), a novice in an Austrian abbey, who is sent as a new governess to Captain von Trapp (David Pittsinger), a widower with seven children in tow. It doesn’t take long for the optimistic Maria to win over all the children and melt the heart of the stiff and formal Captain. The musical’s very familiar score includes “Do Re Me”, “Edelweiss”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, “My Favorite Things” and the title tune among others.
At Ivoryton, under the lifeless direction of Jaqcqueline Hubbard, it is left to lead player Adrianne Hick to do most of the heavy lifting. The sluggish pacing and slow pick-up by cast members is offset by Hick who often seems to be the only one on stage with energy or purpose. Pittsinger takes the stiff formality of his character as an excuse to be dull and chemistry-free with Hick. All the children (double-cast at Ivoryton) are serviceable without being specific or interesting, though this could be due to the pleasant but bland book. Still, in a more polished production the seams in Lindsay/Crouse’s book wouldn’t be so obvious.
Ivoryton favorite R. Bruce Connelly is ideal casting for Max Detweiler, the comical talent scout who, despite the Captain’s protests, enlists the children into performing for a local variety show. But even Connelly seems stymied here; tired, giving little punch to the several zingers provided by the script. The same is true with the usually catty role of Elsa Schraeder (Beverley J. Ricci, defanged), the Captain’s new-wife-in-waiting. Patricia Schuman, however, does deliver a forceful “Climb Every Mountain” playing Mother Abbess and Gabrielle Walker is not without some charm as Louisa, the eldest von Trapp daughter.
It doesn’t help that the many scene changes (scenic design is by Cully Long) drag and that the orchestra’s sound seemed off so much so I thought it was recorded music (it isn’t, the live orchestra is hidden from view). The perfunctory choreography is by Francesca Webster but both the lighting (Marcus Abbott) and costuming (Kate Bunce) do pass muster here. The voices, led by a sterling Ms. Hick, are all fairly good (Pittsinger does have the vocal chops for the Captain) and the family audience in attendance the night I caught the show clearly adored every single minute. It may be the show, itself, that is not aging well, but under better circumstances it can still charm. Hick notwithstanding, this one doesn’t.
“The Sound of Music” continues at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, Connecticut, through July 30. For further information, visit: www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.