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Marla Schaffel: The Unofficial Fan Website


July through November 2003:
Marla stars as Maria in a national tour
of The Sound of Music.

The cast also features:
Burke Moses as Captain Von Trapp
Jeanne Lehman as Mother Abbess
Ed Dixon as Max Detweiler
Colleen Fitzpatrick as Elsa Schraeder
Kristen Bowden as Liesl
Eddie Pendergraft as Friedrich
Emily Klein as Louisa
Patrick S. Minor as Kurt
Maggie Watts as Brigitta
Alexa Ehrlich as Marta
Andie Belkoff as Gretl

Read reviews and articles below
See more production photos

Upcoming tour stops:
October 14–19
Rochester, New York, Rochester Auditorium
October 28–November 2
Hartford, Connecticut, Bushnell Theatre
November 4–9
Buffalo, New York, Shea's Theatre
November 11–16
New Haven, Connecticut, Shubert Theatre (where the show had its world premiere in 1959)

Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes long
Appropriate for all ages

Directed by Drew Scott Harris
Sets by Kenneth Foy
Musical direction by Leo P. Carusone
Choreography by Norb Joerder
Costumes by Robert Fletcher and Vincent Scassellati
Lighting by John McLain
Sound by Abe Jacob

Reviews and articles:

TUTS takes a 'Sound' approach to MariaHouston Chronicle, July 3, 2003
Songs help 'Sound of Music' retain its charmHouston Chronicle, July 8, 2003
'The Sound of Music,' Still a Favorite ThingThe Washington Post, July 17, 2003
'The Sound of Music' comes to the FoxThe Citizen News, July 23, 2003
Singing actress returns to area for Starlight run of 'Sound of Music'The Kansas City Star, August 8, 2003
Review: 'The Sound of Music'Charlotte Theatre Magazine, August 19, 2003
A fresh approach to 'Sound of Music'The Charlotte Observer, August 21, 2003
The sound of classic family fareThe News Journal, September 3, 2003
'Music' to her earsThe Northeast Times, September 4, 2003
'Sound of Music' excels: Classic has talented cast, entertainsThe News Journal, September 6, 2003
Sound? Music? Nun of the aboveThe Boston Herald, September 18, 2003
Spotty 'Sound of Music' is still something goodThe Boston Globe, September 19, 2003
'Sound of Music' a tuneful triumphThe Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2003
Theater review: 'The Sound of Music'The Bolton Common, September 26, 2003
Actress finds the kid inside MariaDetroit Free Press, September 29, 2003
Fox is alive with 'Sound of Music'The Michigan Daily, September 30, 2003
Music is tops in show at FoxThe Detroit News, October 3, 2003
A Favorite ThingThe Columbus Dispatch, October 6, 2003
Fresh approach allows actress to shine as MariaThe Columbus Dispatch, October 9, 2003
Review: 'The Sound of Music'—In the Spotlight, October 29, 2003
'Sound of Music' audience can leave humming tunesThe Buffalo News, November 5, 2003
Review of 'The Sound of Music'New Haven Advocate, November 6, 2003
TUTS takes a 'Sound' approach to Maria
By Everett Evans
July 3, 2003
Copyright 2003
Houston Chronicle
Marla Schaffel brings impeccable credentials to her role as Maria in Theatre Under the Stars' The Sound of Music, opening Sunday at Miller Outdoor Theatre.
The last time Schaffel played a governess—her memorable title performance as Broadway's Jane Eyre—she gathered a sheaf of rave reviews and a 2001 Tony nomination as best actress in a musical.
Both shows cast Schaffel as a orphan who is hired as a governess, bonds with her charge(s) and winds up falling in love with the aloof master of the house.
The gothic Jane Eyre and the sunny Sound of Music represent dark and light variations on the theme. As Jane, Schaffel endured a good deal of stoic suffering before her eventual happy ending. As Maria, she simply remembers her favorite things and teaches the kids to sing; even the Nazi invasion of Austria can't get her down for long.
Yet Schaffel objects when Sound of Music critics call the show sugary and its heroine a goody-two-shoes.
"I don't see it that way at all," Schaffel says. "Maria is a strong-minded young woman. I don't think anyone who speaks to her boss as she does to Captain von Trapp, who stands up to authority figures as she does, fits the gooey description some have given her."
Schaffel loved her demanding role in Jane Eyre. "It was one of those opportunities that just don't come along all that often." A musical of distinction, a big hit in its pre-Broadway run at La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse, the show got a more mixed reception on Broadway. Despite some ardent admirers, it had a modest six-month run.
"I think timing was a large factor," Schaffel says, noting that Jane Eyre was a heartfelt, romantic show in a season when everyone was awaiting the arrival of Mel Brooks' glitzy, zany The Producers, which swept that year's Tonys.
Schaffel's other Broadway credits have been in comparably serious-minded shows, such as Titanic and Les Miserables.
"I've enjoyed the opportunity to be in shows that are cast not so much with singers as with actors who sing well. I studied acting at Juilliard and though I've wound up cast in a lot of musicals, I think in terms of a play with songs, where music is necessary to express the intensity of emotions. I'm approaching The Sound of Music in the same way."
Playing Maria for the first time, Schaffel gets to sing a beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein score that most musical fans—herself included—have known by heart since childhood. It's a score strongly associated with two legendary stars—Mary Martin in the original 1959 Broadway production and Julie Andrews in the 1965 film version.
"You do have to go the extra mile when a role is so well-known and so associated with a famous performer," Schaffel says. "I have Julie's voice and phrasing in my head. Hers was a voice I listened to and it was she who inspired me to sing. I'm lucky to have a director (Drew Scott Harris) who is encouraging me to find my own way to do it."
The Houston run at Miller is the first stop for this six-month tour, which is co-produced by TUTS and a dozen other regional musical companies. The production has been mounted at Atlanta's Theatre Of The Stars, where Schaffel last season played Eliza in My Fair Lady.
"When (TOTS chief) Chris Manos called and asked me about doing this show, I jumped at the chance," Schaffel says. "How often does a Jewish girl get a chance to be in a convent?"
Starring opposite Schaffel as Captain von Trapp is Burke Moses, who originated the role of Gaston in the stage version of Beauty and the Beast (including its pre-Broadway run at TUTS). He also took over male leads in the hit Broadway revivals of Guys and Dolls and Kiss Me, Kate.
Songs help 'Sound of Music' retain its charm
By Everett Evans
July 8, 2003
Copyright 2003
Houston Chronicle
If the Nazi takeover of Austria couldn't stop the Trapp Family Singers, don't think intermittent thunderstorms are going to faze them.
The Sound of Music prevailed over the sound of meteorology Monday evening at Miller Outdoor Theatre as the indefatigable Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein favorite returned in its latest incarnation. Produced by Houston's Theatre Under The Stars and a dozen other regional companies, the tour that begins with this run at Miller (through Friday only) offers an entirely standard yet capable rendition. The show is bolstered by the outstanding vocal work of Broadway veterans Marla Schaffel and Burke Moses, aptly cast as Maria and Capt. Von Trapp.
Weather at Monday night's opening supplied the added novelty of an actual thunderstorm to accompany the onstage one that strikes during heroine Maria's first night as the Von Trapp family's new governess. Such lines as "It's going to rain—you'd better close the window" and "You're not afraid of a thunderstorm, are you?" drew good-humored laughter from patrons scooting in from the ends of rows to huddle closer under the amphitheater's roof. Some at the fringes of the sheltered area occasionally opened their umbrellas, but others seemed to find sporadic raindrops on showgoers as refreshing as Maria's beloved "raindrops on roses."
The Sound of Music remains durable, though some of its appeal has worn thin from familiarity and overproduction; the last major mounting seen here was the 1999 tour of the Broadway revival.
No show so beloved by fans inspires such a love/hate response from critics. That has been true since its 1959 premiere, when the New York Times' Brooks Atkinson praised the best of the show as "Rodgers and Hammerstein in good form" while faulting the script for "succumbing to the clichés of operetta" with the "hackneyed look of the musical theater Rodgers and Hammerstein had replaced with Oklahoma!"
The shortcomings stem partly from the fact this is the one R&H show for which lyricist Hammerstein did not also write the book, resulting in one of the team's least plot-oriented scores. With several numbers presented simply as the songs Maria and the kids are singing, this score doesn't dig as deep into character and situation as R&H masterworks like Carousel and The King and I.
Note how much more potent the score becomes when it advances the plot, as when Mother Abbess counsels Maria with "Climb Every Mountain" for a powerful Act 1 finale.
Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's book is efficient and cute, often too cute, lapsing into kitschiness. While raising serious issues, it resolves crises too patly, quickly and easily—whether this means Elsa stepping aside as Maria's romantic rival for Capt. Von Trapp or the Von Trapps conveniently hiking to Switzerland to flee the Nazis.
Imperfections noted, The Sound of Music possesses indestructible charms in its story and especially in Rodgers' buoyant music and Hammerstein's forthright lyrics. Despite "So Long, Farewell" (with "I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly" representing alliteration run amok), there are moments when this show really does soar on the sound of its music.
Fans of the film, please note: This production uses the original stage script and score, retaining only one of the movie's changes, the substitution of "Something Good" for "An Ordinary Couple."
This should mean the inclusion of Elsa and Max's two numbers—dropped from the film but sorely needed for balance (otherwise the score is all Maria, the kids and the nuns). Yet while the wry "How Can Love Survive?" was heard Monday, "No Way to Stop It" was unwisely omitted. It should be reinstated, as it points up the conflict between Elsa and Capt. Von Trapp (she advises him to accommodate the Nazis; he refuses). Without it, their breakup seems too abrupt and unjustified.
Schaffel, who won accolades for her fine work as Jane Eyre, makes a spirited and persuasive Maria. With her superb and characterful singing, she lends greater dramatic range than this role often is given. She injects an effusive, mercurial quality, a wild streak that helps explain why Maria is not cut out for convent life; her later scenes show Maria's maturation into a poised, resourceful wife and mother of a family in flight.
Though Capt. Von Trapp offers fewer opportunities, Moses is handsome, stalwart and sturdy-voiced, pairing nicely with Schaffel and peaking vocally with his poignant "Edelweiss."
As when the last tour played here in 1999, Jeanne Lehman again brings vocal distinction and dramatic conviction to Mother Abbess, making the eloquent "Climb Every Mountain" an exalting high.
Colleen Fitzpatrick enacts a sleek, sophisticated Elsa, while Ed Dixon brings bite and wit to the opportunistic Max.
The kids are inevitably cute, with Kristen Bowden's Liesl a fetching ingenue and Maggie Watts' disconcertingly candid Brigitta a pint-sized oracle. The nuns are proper yet mischievous, as stage nuns are expected to be, pacing or scampering in the "crossovers" like trained penguins.
Drew Scott Harris' direction, albeit predictable, keeps things moving briskly, embellished by Norb Joerder's traditional staging of musical numbers. Musical director Leo P. Carusone leads a spirited orchestral performance, though with occasional rough edges on Monday in moments that found onstage singers and orchestra at odds regarding tempo.
'The Sound of Music,' Still a Favorite Thing
By Peter Marks,
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 17, 2003, Page C1
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
Some musicals age as flavorfully as a wheel of English cheddar, but no matter how you slice The Sound of Music, it will always be Velveeta. Yes, it has those all timeless tunes, about climbing every mountain to find the hills are alive with a problem like Maria. It boasts other valuable assets. Cute kids. Spunky nuns. The occasional dirndl.
And it has no doubt benefited from what you might call the imprint factor: For some stunningly large proportion of theatergoers, The Sound of Music was the first musical they ever saw. (It was that for me; my mother took me to the original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin, when I was 5.) All of which may help to explain why a show of such synthetic charm has become a beloved perennial. Like a grilled cheese made with processed American, The Sound of Music satisfies a childlike craving for something gooey and easy on the digestive tract.
The latest incarnation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein chestnut has made its way to the Washington area, rolling into Wolf Trap for the week.
It's an agreeable—if oddly rushed—version, meeting most of the time-honored standards for sugary smoothness, and even surpassing expectations in a couple of instances, most notably for the lovely work of the Broadway actress Marla Schaffel, whose sprightly Maria is both engagingly played and exquisitely sung. Equally on target is Jeanne Lehman, portraying the Mother Abbess and delivering the Act 1 closer, "Climb Every Mountain," as if her voice were intended to sustain a team of mountaineers on an ascent of the Matterhorn.
Vocally, in fact, this Sound of Music is uncommonly accomplished.
Non-singing leading men have often been chosen to play the brooding Capt. von Trapp, who, aside from "Edelweiss" (the last number Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote together) performs only snippets of songs. Here, Burke Moses, an actor with a stirring baritone, gets the assignment, and it proves to be a mostly happy choice; you learn, as if for the first time, that the seven von Trapp kids have some genetic predisposition to bursting out in robust Alpine harmony.
Moses was the original Gaston in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, and also made for an inspired Li'l Abner several years ago in a concert revival of the musical named for that comic strip character, presented by the Encores! series in Manhattan. His von Trapp, though, lacks a couple of crucial facets—the crisp military bearing and the haughty remoteness—that make the captain an interesting challenge for the high-spirited Maria. Moses' effect is earthier, more appropriate to another Rodgers and Hammerstein hero, Billy Bigelow of Carousel.
Schaffel has more success developing a rapport with the von Trapp children, although director Drew Scott Harris and his musical director, Leo P. Carusone, have made the perverse decision to rev up the tempos of their numbers together. It's as if they had one eye on the stage and the other on a stopwatch. The numbers move, yes, but at times you have the sensation of a score being hurried along. Given the full-bodied orchestral sound generated by the 23 musicians in the pit, this is a particular shame.
"The Lonely Goatherd," for instance, a song that Maria sings to the kids to dispel their fears during a thunderstorm, progresses so rapidly that the lyrics sound as if they're meant to be a tongue twister. An audience member could swear that Schaffel shot the conductor a dirty look midway through her breathless rendition.
The younger children, particularly Andie Belkoff's Gretl and Maggie Watts's Brigitta, offer enjoyably unspoiled performances: Self-consciousness has not afflicted their portrayals. Some of the older boys and girls, however, are too old for their roles; a few look as if they're ready for a first apartment rather than a first date.
And while Colleen Fitzpatrick's overdressed Elsa Schraeder, Maria's rival, is a tad unsteady, Ed Dixon makes for a grand Max Detweiler, the bon vivant who helps the von Trapps escape from Austria to Switzerland.
Opening night at Wolf Trap included a few technical glitches; the drop-curtain walls of Nonnberg Abbey buckled, and the follow-spot tended to wander off. But no one who has "Do-Re-Mi" in their veins—or is dying to introduce it into the bloodstream of the next generation—is going to judge this production's imperfections too harshly. The Sound of Music seems impervious. It's not a show anymore. It's a shrine.

'The Sound of Music' comes to the Fox
By Michael Boylan,
The Citizen News
July 23, 2003
Fans of musicals often cite The Sound of Music as one of the greats. Not only does it have a wonderful and true story, but the songs are so famous that some people don't even know that they know them, until they are sitting in the theater and singing along.
The Sound of Music has found success on Broadway and the Silver Screen. This week, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical rolls into Atlanta for a week-long run at the Fox Theatre.
The story focuses on Maria, a nun novitiate who may not be cut out for the life of a nun. She becomes a governess for the Von Trapp children, who have run off all other governesses and are under the strict control of their widowed father Captain Von Trapp. The children fall in love with Maria, as does Captain Von Trapp, but the family then must escape Austria when it falls under Nazi control.
The Sound of Music features a stellar cast. Maria is played by Marla Schaffel, who appeared in last year's Theater of the Stars production of My Fair Lady. She also earned a Tony Award nomination for her role in Jane Eyre. Burke Moses, who plays Captain Von Trapp, originated the role of Gaston in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. Jeanne Lehman, who played Mother Abbess on Broadway as well as on a national tour with Richard Chamberlain, reprises her role in this production, while Ed Dixon and Colleen Fitzpatrick, both Broadway mainstays, play Max Detweiler and Baroness Elsa Schraeder, respectively.
Singing actress returns to area for Starlight run of 'Sound of Music'
By Robert Trussell,
The Kansas City Star
August 8, 2003
And so Marla Schaffel returns again to the Great Plains.
Schaffel first visited this neck of the woods in 1995, when she was part of the original workshop production of Jane Eyre in Wichita. The adaptation of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel by John Caird and composer Paul Gordon was later staged in Toronto and eventually made it to Broadway, earning Schaffel a Tony nomination for leading actress in a musical.
She failed to win the Tony but her mantel is crowded with other trophies awarded for her performance: the Drama Desk Award, the Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award.
Now Schaffel, who is based in New York, is playing Maria in The Sound of Music, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show about the love between a singing nun in training and an Austrian aristocrat. The show was inspired by the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers.
The show, produced by a consortium of 14 regional theaters, is on tour this summer and into the fall and opens Monday at Starlight. Schaffel recently agreed to field a few questions by telephone from Los Angeles, where she was spending a week off from the tour.
Q. To have stayed with Jane Eyre through its various incarnations must have been a challenge in terms of other career opportunities. How did you manage it?
A. I was privileged that they wanted me....I had to turn down jobs and not make myself available, but when you love something so much and believe in something, you do what you do. And I've always been devoted to working on new projects. That's my first love.
Had you ever appeared in The Sound of Music before this tour?
Never. I never expected to be even considered for this part so it's a wonderful opportunity.
Why did you think you would never be considered for this role?
One, I never expected to see myself wearing a habit. I was not raised Catholic so seeing myself in a novice's outfit is a surprise. But this was unusual. There are certain things I always wanted to play as an actress. I always expected to play things like My Fair Lady or Evita or even Jane Eyre, where the acting was almost more important than the singing. So this was a surprise because it's quite an acting challenge. It's not all sugar and sweetness. Maria has a huge decision to make and has a large obstacle, which is her naiveté.
She thinks the only way to worship God is to become a nun. But you can love another person and love other people and still be devoted to God.
We don't really think about what it takes to devote yourself to being a nun....They are literally married to God. And that's quite a conflict, to think that that's your purpose and realize maybe God has another purpose in mind for you.
Most people assume a familiarity with the show because of the movie. Did anything about the material surprise you?
There are things that are different from the movie. I've never seen it on the stage. The order of songs is different. There are songs that aren't in the movie. I think they actually made it better for the movie—they perfected the problems—but they took out a lot of the one-liners. There's actually a lot of humor.
I know you've done some film work, including a Woody Allen movie. Would you like to do more film acting, or stick to theater?
I've been thinking about coming out here to pursue more of that. I may just come out here for a while. And it seems sometimes you have a better chance of landing a Broadway show if you're a TV star these days. But one's gotta do what one's gotta do.
I have an inclination toward the directing side. But everything's an obstacle of fear. I think my next fear to get over is doing a cabaret show by myself. I enjoy doing that kind of thing, sitting and making people laugh and so I think that's my next goal—putting a cabaret together.
What scares you about a cabaret show?
Being out there all by myself. That thrills me but it also scares the pants off of me. But I'm the queen of dichotomy.
Review: 'The Sound of Music'
By Allison West,
Charlotte Theatre Magazine
August 19, 2003
Certain Music-tread hills have been indefatigably climbed again and again, but when they're as sturdy and sunny as the smartly abridged and deftly paced incarnation that's sweeping through the Belk Theater, it's fine by me. The touring version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic The Sound of Music, playing through Aug. 24, stars Broadway stalwarts Marla Schaffel and Burke Moses.
The ever-expressive Schaffel sincerely blesses her Maria with pluck and vigor, her commanding stage presence matched only by her luminous vocals. Her dramatic heft also lends credence to Maria's turn from flighty, mercurial postulant to devoted mother and ingenious wife. By comparison, Moses' Capt. von Trapp is appropriately stiff, then striking and strong-voiced, parenting no less than a few tears with his poignant "Edelweiss."
The children are equally engaging, particularly the ingenue-in-training Kristen Bowden, as Liesl; Maggie Watts' disarmingly frank and perceptive Brigitta; and Patrick S. Minor's too-cute-for-words Kurt. Rounding out the exceptional players are Jeanne Lehman's Mother Abbess, whose "Climb Every Mountain" is exalting; Colleen Fitzpatrick's sleek and sophisticated Elsa Schraeder, wisely made less of a harridan and more softly motivated by uncompromising political endeavors; and Ed Dixon's charmingly gruff and biting Max Detweiler.
One downer: The sound system was painfully over-amped. But, on the bright side, the settings could be used when Starlight Express rolls into town.
5 out of 5
© Copyright 2003 Charlotte Theatre Magazine, www.charlottetheatre.com
A fresh approach to 'Sound of Music'
By Lynn Trenning,
The Charlotte Observer
August 21, 2003
The Sound of Music remains one of the most wholesome pieces of musical theater regularly performed on stage. Primarily a vehicle for heart-warming music, it encompasses a touching love story, as well as a gentle approach to World War II that is rarely seen in light of what history has taught us about that tyrannical time.
Director Drew Scott Harris manages to bring a fresh approach to a story many Americans can recite by rote. "My Favorite Things" is sung by Maria and Mother Abbess in the abbey, rather than in Maria's bedroom during a scary lightning storm. The bedroom scene, instead, is peppered by the capricious "The Lonely Goatherd," which gives the children an opportunity to improvise as a team, rather than listen to an oration by Maria. Special attention is given to the wedding scene. Mother Abbess stands before a stunning stained glass mosaic, her shimmering robe an apt reflection of the sacred ceremony's importance.

But let me back up in case anyone is unfamiliar with the story. Set in Austria in 1938, The Sound of Music is the story of Maria, played by Tony-nominated Marla Schaffel, an impetuous young woman who is training to be a nun. The wise Mother Abbess, played by Jeanne Lehman, realizes Maria is miscast in this role and assigns her to become nanny to the seven children of the von Trapp family. Since the death of his wife, Captain von Trapp runs his household like one of his ships; his children are desperate for love and attention, which Maria lavishes abundantly.
Simultaneously, the Nazis are occupying Austria, and it is just a matter of time before the captain is forced to choose between joining or defying the Nazi navy. Richard Rodgers wrote the music, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics. Issues of nationalism, political ideals and love are illustrated more clearly in this rendition than I've previously seen on stage or on screen.
Schaffel, who recently performed in Charlotte Repertory Theatre's production of Let Me Sing, sings like an angel. Her clear voice coordinates beautifully with the children's. As Captain Georg von Trapp, Burke Moses is unconventionally handsome. His angst-imbued rendition of "Edelweiss" was so touching it made me think I had personal memories of Austria.
Each von Trapp child is cuter than the next. Brigitta, played by Maggie Watts, the truth teller of the family, has the best lines. Dressed alternately in sailor suits, play clothes made of flowered curtains and traditional Austrian skirts and knickers, they sang on cue, and barely missed a beat when the bedpost fell off during the bedroom scene.
Some of the dialogue is rushed, but the resulting time cut is worth it. The sound system in the Belk Theater continues to thwart technicians. Sometimes the actors sound like they are speaking from the bottom of tin cans, sometimes they sound like they are off-stage. Other times the mikes don't work at all, which the actors seem to take in stride.
The sound of classic family fare
By Bill Hayden,
The News Journal (DelawareOnline)
September 3, 2003
Marla Schaffel knows families are coming to see the 43-year-old Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. Because of the show's lighting, she can only hear them when she is onstage portraying Maria. But she can see them in the lines outside the theaters during the current national tour.
"Not only are we getting fantastic audiences, but they are very responsive," Schaffel says.
The show, about the musical von Trapp family, opens at Wilmington's DuPont Theatre on Friday.
The production isn't the only Rodgers and Hammerstein revival enjoying recent success on tour and on Broadway. Oklahoma, South Pacific and The King and I are among others restaged for current audiences.
"Once upon a time," says Ted Chapin, "Rodgers and Hammerstein shows were looked on as just good musicals. Now they are seen as wholesome at a time when wholesome is not the norm on Broadway."
Chapin is president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which licenses the shows to producers. He says there has been an increase in the past three years of licensing of major productions.
It's not just those shows. Such venerable musicals as Man of La Mancha, Oliver, Bells Are Ringing, My Fair Lady and The Music Man have returned to attract new audiences.
All have one thing in common, says Charles Gilbert, musical-theater department head at Philadelphia's University of the Arts.
"They are family-friendly," Gilbert says. "Those are the buzz words and marketing hook now for Broadway and tours," he says. "These shows are seen by producers as a way of getting things on that have an economic chance of succeeding."
They also offer families an opportunity that the more adult side of Broadway doesn't. "Parents are looking for things to take their children to see," Gilbert says, "so they can spend time together and expose them to theater."
As she performs in The Sound of Music, Schaffel says she thinks about the children who may be seeing their first play. "It is important to me that it be a great experience," she says.
Schaffel, who was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Jane Eyre, portrays the young girl who becomes the governess for the seven children of widowed Austrian Navy Capt. Georg von Trapp just prior to unification of Austria and Nazi Germany.
"The kids are where she learns about love as she develops from an excited young girl into a woman," the actress says. "She learns about humanity and sharing her heart."
'Music' to her ears
By Rita Charleston,
The Northeast Times
September 4, 2003
Singer/actress Marla Schaffel credits her parents with helping provide her the ability to earn a living today doing exactly what she loves to do.
A Miami, Fla., native who has spent the majority of her life in New York, Schaffel said her father always told her and her siblings to do the thing they most loved to do.
"My parents were always very generous to all of us in that they gave us all kinds of lessons so we could discover what the object of that love might be," she said.
For Schaffel, it was definitely music, from the time she was 5 and performed in her first musical at her brother's high school, until she graduated from the Juilliard School Drama Division, to her current roles on Broadway and off.
Schaffel recently starred on Broadway in the title role of the Tony-nominated musical Jane Eyre. The role earned her several accolades, including a Tony nomination, the Drama Desk Award, a Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award, all for outstanding actress in a musical in 2001.
Other Broadway credits include Titanic and Les Misérables, as well as the national tours of Evita and My Fair Lady. She also has amassed an impressive list of off-Broadway, regional and film credits.
Currently, Schaffel is starring as Maria—the role made famous by Julie Andrews—in an all-new production of The Sound of Music, which is being presented at the DuPont Theatre at the Hotel duPont in Wilmington, Del., from Sept. 5 through 14.
The inspiring story of the Von Trapp Family Singers is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that features a memorable score and puts the spotlight on Maria, a "nun in training" who becomes the governess to the seven children of the widowed Austrian aristocrat, Capt. Georg von Trapp.
Maria soon wins the hearts of the children and their father, and the family barely escapes the Nazis while fleeing to the safety of Switzerland—singing all the way!
The original Broadway production of The Sound of Music won eight Tony awards, including best musical and best score, and the 1965 moving starring Andrews received five Academy Awards, including one for best picture.
Schaffel said that people are constantly asking her what it's like to appear in a role that is so associated with another performer.
"My reply is always that each time an individual does a role it becomes a different role, their own role," she said. "And even though I sometimes have Julie's voice in my head, I am a different style of actress, and so I approach the journey differently."
The current production has been touring for about five months, and Schaffel said the most difficult thing about being in a touring company is that there's really no such thing as a day off.
"Our so-called days off are spent traveling," she said. "Then we find ourselves in a different city where everything is new for us. But I just go with the flow and enjoy what's new and what's different. And there's always a lot to enjoy. I think the best part is the fact that every city is different, every audience is different, every crew is different. So we get to be with new people every week, which is really kind of wonderful."
When this tour ends, Schaffel said, it's back to New York to jump once again into the audition process for whatever show may come her way.
"It's difficult to have to audition every time you want a part, but it's part of the process," she said. "You have to accept that and just keep going."
In the business professionally now for about a dozen years, Schaffel said she'd eventually like to be starring in another musical on Broadway, and maybe even creating a few roles of her own.
"Over the years I've had the good fortune of doing just that—creating new roles and playing great characters. That's what I really love doing because I'm an actor, and I like to be part of the process of the creation of the piece," the actress explained. "I find that very thrilling. And some day, I'd also love to do a television series, maybe something like Everybody Loves Raymond. That sounds like it would be a lot of fun."
'Sound of Music' excels: Classic has talented cast, entertains
By Bill Hayden,
The News Journal (DelawareOnline)
September 6, 2003
Traditionally staged, this touring revival of The Sound of Music is an old-fashioned musical made special not by any flashy updating but by an excellent cast.
The story itself has aged well. It is still as wholesome and heart-warming as when the Rodgers & Hammerstein show first debuted on Broadway in 1959.
Maria, training to become a nun, instead becomes the governess to the seven von Trapp children in 1938 Austria on the eve of the Nazi takeover of the country. She falls in love with the children, then with their widowed father. Throughout all this, everybody is singing.
The songs are familiar enough that the audience is tempted to sing along. From the title song and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to "Some of My Favorite Things" and "Edelweiss," they are classic show tunes.
What sets this version apart from countless regional and dinner theater productions of the show is the talent director Drew Scott Davis puts on the stage.
Marla Schaffel, who was nominated for a Tony Award for Jane Eyre, creates a full-bodied Maria, showing her first with the youthful exuberance of a girl and maturing into a sensible, intelligent woman as she grows to love the children and their father. Schaffel has a vocal range that makes the hills come alive as she sings of them in The Sound of Music and a delightful playfulness with such numbers as "Do Re Mi."
As Capt. Georg von Trapp, Burke Moses presents a suave, initially emotionally crippled naval officer. Maria and music, however, turn him into a compassionate, doting father. Moses, who appeared in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast, also has a great singing voice.
Sadly, he gets to use it only with "Edelweiss" and snatches of other numbers.
Together, Schaffel and Moses make for a striking romantic pairing.
Veteran actress Jeanne Lehman commands attention when she sings "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" at the Act I finale as the Mother Abbess who sent Maria to the von Trapps.
The seven children are not only expectedly cute and adorable, but unexpectedly capable as performers. Brigitta, played by Maggie Watts, the truth teller of the clan, has the script's best lines.
Putting the emphasis on talent rather than tampering with the original creates a production that grandly entertains its audiences.
Sound? Music? Nun of the above
By Robert Nesti,
The Boston Herald
September 18, 2003
A friend once described The Sound of Music as the one with the nuns, Nazis and yodeling governess.
It is, of course, much more than that. It was a huge success during its initial Broadway run some 40 years ago, and something close to a phenomenon when its film version—for a long time the largest grossing film of all time—was released in 1965. It even has endured to this day due to the popularity of its video release and, more recently, karaoke versions that have audiences singing along with familiar songs.
There was no audience participation last night at the Wang Theatre, where this touring production opened, but perhaps a sing-along would have been a welcome distraction from the sound of music emanating from the stage, which was wan at best. Not that the singing was below par. Rather, the amplification system fell below the standard usually associated with touring productions, making the dialogue sometimes difficult to hear and the vocals sound as if they were piped from another location.
Which is a pity, because the singing is this production's strongest element: robustly old-fashioned, even operetta-like, allowing the melodic richness of Rodgers's music to fully breathe, despite the boom-boxish sound engineering.
Otherwise, director Drew Scott Harris offers little more than paint-by-numbers revival. The cast, save for Marla Schaffel's Maria, largely runs through their paces, and the production feels freeze-dried. Not that The Sound of Music could ever be given a revisionist production as Carousel and Oklahoma! have. What librettist Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse wrote is little more than a pleasant, generic Cinderella story set against standard World War II melodrama augmented by Rodgers and Hammerstein's most saccharine score.
With her radiant soprano, period looks and naturalistic acting, Schaffel nearly carried the production. Her best scenes were with Jeanne Lehman's Mother Superior, whose full-throttle vocals and easygoing manner gave this cardboard character a human dimension.
Spotty 'Sound of Music' is still something good
By Richard Dyer,
The Boston Globe
September 19, 2003
In a couple of months, The Sound of Music will celebrate its 44th birthday. It's looking pretty indestructible. It has survived Hollywood, a tour with Debby Boone, summer stock, high schools; it even survived the dreadful sound system that was in use at the Wang Center Wednesday night and distorted every word and tone.
This touring production originated in Atlanta's Theater of the Stars, and it is a respectable effort. Production values are minimal (the Alps are painted), and the company looked a little underpopulated for the Wang's vast spaces. Drew Scott Harris's direction was merely serviceable. The millionairess Elsa Schraeder, choosing Hitler over the Baron, announces she must pack, and then walks away from the house.
But there's a talented, sincere, and hard-working cast, and most of the seven children of Baron von Trapp are unaffectedly charming. One of them, Kurt (Patrick S. Minor), looks just like carrot-topped Ron in the Harry Potter movies, not a look one associates with Austria in the 1930s, but that is hardly the only anachronism on view.
Marla Schaffel, recently Broadway's Jane Eyre, is appealing as Maria, particularly after she drops her absurdly coltish prancing; no wonder all the nuns in the abbey worry about her. Schaffel is a skillful actress and has a good, strong voice, secure all the way up to high C, but her style and sound are more modern than Rodgers and Hammerstein's. "When the dog bites," she snarls, looking as knowingly lubricious as Madonna.
Burke Moses doesn't bring much presence or personality to the Baron warmed back to life by Maria, but he has a better baritone voice than many of his predecessors in the role. Ed Dixon gathers all the borscht belt clichés into his portrayal of Max, the secretary of education and culture, but Colleen Fitzpatrick brings an icy blond chill to the opportunist Elsa.
Friedrich, the firstborn child, is supposed to be 14, but he looks a generation older than the others; the rest of them don't look and act like showbiz kids at all, and Kristen Bowden is particularly appealing as the troubled Liesl. Bret Shuford is light on his feet as the young dancing Nazi whom she loves and who lets the Trapp family escape because he once had a crush on her. Jeanne Lehman is warmhearted and feisty as the Mother Abbess, but she doesn't have the heavy operatic guns to fire for her big number. She rushes through "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," and it comes out more scary than inspiring.
Decades of parody and ridicule haven't destroyed The Sound of Music. Rodgers and Hammerstein were sentimentalists and as manipulative as Puccini, but they believed in what they were doing, and that's what keeps their work alive. The story is stirring, and the Austrian dance rhythms are captivating. The show boasts great tunes that familiarity has not dimmed; when they appear, they are old friends you are happy to encounter again. Most of all, the show has heart. Wednesday night the Wang Center was full of children, brought by parents not yet born when Sound of Music opened its pre-Broadway tryout at the Shubert in 1959, and a new generation fell in love with it. No one can feel cynical about that.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
'Sound of Music' a tuneful triumph
By Chris Jones,
The Chicago Tribune
September 23, 2003
In an interview with the BBC, Arthur Miller once mourned the loss of "the pretty good play" on Broadway. As the great man saw it, the health of an art isn't discernible by its hits or flops, which abide. Broadway was sick because it lacked quotidian pleasures.
We have the same problem with touring musicals. Chicago usually gets either megahits with enough buzz to render them risk-free, or cut-down, collegiate-cast affairs coming here from Saginaw with only ticket prices worthy of downtown Chicago.
So let's here it for the considerable joys of The Sound of Music an unremarkable but enjoyable wing-and-drop road show, replete with a hard-working and capable Equity cast with Broadway credits, solid production values, stellar voices and a good-size clutch of acoustic instruments in the pit belting out one of the greatest musical scores.
If you go to much touring theater, you'll know this kind of mid-range, old-fashioned family show has become as rare a beast as an anti-Nazi singing telegram in 1938 Austria.
There's nothing here to defy expectations or create a dazzling night on the town. Burke Moses' Capt. Von Trapp is a wooden fellow, firmly in the grand tradition of wooden Von Trapps.
Marla Schaffel is a perky Maria, in the grand tradition of perky Marias. Colleen Fitzpatrick's Elsa, a.k.a. The Wicked Witch of the Alps, comes from central casting. And Jeanne Lehman's Mother Abbess sounds just as she did when I last saw her do this role alongside Richard Chamberlain, or Marie Osmond or some such. With her irony-free "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" ringing resplendently around the Auditorium, Lehman offers the full cloistered Monty. Not a note less.
At times, you wish they would switch off the lousy, echoing microphones and let this tuneful cast sing the great score acoustically in one of the greatest theaters for acoustics in the world. Ah, well.
Moses—who has a huge, thrilling baritone and even, at times, a rather touching shyness—deserves a break. No Broadway character has more wooden lines than Capt. V.T.—he cannot even turn down a Nazi commission without a suspended main clause wherein he mumbles about how nice it would be to have his own ship again. Pompous ass.
And while the fine-voiced but offbeat Schaffel couldn't seem less at home amidst the Edelweiss in her first scene, she's fresh, warm and funny in all the scenes with the laudably credible kids, all of whom sing beautifully.
This is The Sound of Music. What could one want? Harvey Fierstein as the Mother Abbess?
He's not to be found in Drew Scott Harris' better-than-average production.
Looking to give kids or grandkids the same experience as this show has reliably delivered for half a century? Buy with comfort. And shed the obligatory tear at the moment when music comes back to that house without shame.
Theater review: 'The Sound of Music'
By Montana Miller,
The Bolton Common
September 26, 2003
I've seen the movie countless times; I know every song by heart; I can name every Von Trapp family member, from Liesl to Gretl. Last week, the lobby of the Wang Theatre was full of budding devotees of the do-re-mi mantra, but no little girl could have been more excited than I was, going to see the stage production of The Sound of Music for the first time ever.
Perched on the edge of the seat next to me was five-year-old Irina, who had come with her mother; both were glamorous in gowns and beaded jewelry. I forgot to feel underdressed, though, as the show began: a dozen nuns appeared and dispersed themselves throughout the aisles, filling the air with a gorgeous hymn. The cavernous theater was instantly transformed into a cathedral, holding the hushed breath of an audience transported back to childhood awe.
Just a few minutes later, as the nuns launched into their affectionately reproachful "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," I heard a lilting voice rising from my tiny neighbor: "Maria's not an asset to the abbey." The three decades between us dissolved.
The Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1959 Broadway classic, has a quality seemingly impervious to time's erosion. Unfortunately, the majestic Swiss Alps (a powerful presence in the 1965 film) had not held up so well at the Wang. These hills were a long way from alive; the mountains were painted on backdrops in dull, sickly colors. Both the scenery and the stage direction lacked inspiration; clumsy choreography had the children careening into each other or posing awkwardly, and only the set of the convent's interior evoked a real sense of place. The sound system did not do justice to the strong voices singing those unforgettable favorite numbers.
But the songs carried us through, thanks to heartfelt performances by a competent cast. I had assumed that any substitutes for Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer could only disappoint; but Marla Schaffel, as Maria, won me over. She effectively portrayed a gangly, innocent girl maturing into a woman, under the shadow of the 1938 Nazi invasion and charged with a family of diverse psychic needs (and vocal ranges). Like a beloved babysitter, she struck a balance of mischief and maternal warmth. In their scenes together, Schaffel and Burke Moses (as Captain von Trapp) had chemistry and heat that Andrews and Plummer, despite their charm, never quite generated.
The actors playing the children did a fine job, particularly Patrick Minor (Kurt), a boy of slight build, achingly clear voice, and bright red hair. Kristen Bowden is perfectly cast as the rebellious yet vulnerable Liesl, who is "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with a crush on a young soldier (Bret Shuford). (Little Irina, when I asked, said this duet is her favorite song in the musical—although later, during the scene itself, she commented in an outraged stage whisper: "Ewww! They almost kissed each other!") Among the Von Trapps, only Friedrich made a bad impression: he looked 35, not 14, and his short pants and simpering grin did nothing to help.
Ed Dixon was marvelously robust as Max, the talent agent and family friend; the Captain's suave girlfriend Elsa (Colleen Fitzpatrick) was intimidating and manipulative. Jeanne Lehman as Mother Superior, and her posse of operatic nuns, provided a pious backbone to the show. There were striking differences between the movie and the stage version. For example, the cheerfully determined "My Favorite Things" was a duet between Maria and the older nun, rather than a distraction from the thunderstorm as in the film. Instead Maria sang "The Lonely Goatherd" to her charges as thunderstorm-comfort. Such changes in the plot took some getting used to, for those of us who know the movie by heart, but the play (which was of course the original version) is equally irresistible.
Throughout the evening, I had chills of exhilaration and nostalgia, only enhanced by Irina's melodic contributions from the seat beside me. (Too bad her mother kept shushing her!) Finally, the Von Trapps' concert performance for the Nazis, setting up their escape through the abbey and over the Alps, summoned another chill altogether. The sinister threat of Hitler's army was tangible. Under swastika banners (which drew hisses from the Wang audience), Captain von Trapp led his family through a clenched-jawed "Do Re Mi," and then sang "Edelweiss" as a veiled goodbye to occupied Austria. With the lyrics "Bless my homeland forever," Moses's deep baritone conveyed bitter longing and heartbreak.
Sadly, the show ended on a false chord. Rather than trudging together over the Alps to the soaring strains of "Climb Every Mountain," the family suddenly appeared illuminated on a pedestal, frozen like stone into mid-trudge position, eyes vacant. The nuns' voices brought the number to its end, but the Von Trapps resembled stuffed animals. I just wanted them to sing.
Actress finds the kid inside Maria: 'Sound of Music' star emphasizes youth
By Martin F. Kohn,
Detroit Free Press
September 29, 2003
Just mention The Sound of Music and everybody thinks of Julie Andrews—or Mary Martin, if they're theater snobs. So not only does the main character, Maria Rainer, arrive at the Von Trapp mansion with a suitcase or two, whoever plays her carries a different set of baggage. What's an actress to do? How do you shake off the big-screen specter of Julie Andrews and make the role fresh?
How, in effect, do you solve a problem like Maria?
The same way you'd face any acting challenge, says Marla Schaffel, who brings considerable Broadway and regional experience to the touring production of The Sound of Music, Tuesday through Sunday at the Fox Theatre.
"I kind of approach it as if it's never been done before, because it's certainly never been done before by me," Schaffel says by telephone from her parents' place in Miami during a few days off.
Even as a child, Schaffel says, she took issue with the way Maria was portrayed. "I remember watching Julie Andrews, and to me she was so mature and grounded, so womanly...When they described her as being a will o' the wisp and a whirling dervish I never really felt that from her. So I try to be more of that, more of a kid."
Indeed, neither Andrews nor Mary Martin emphasized Maria's coltish aspect. "I," said Schaffel, "try to bring more of her wildness into the show so that when she becomes a woman at the end, to deal with the Nazis and the children and all of that responsibility, that there's really a very clear arc to her growth."
Audiences who just want to sit back and enjoy the songs in Rodgers and Hammerstein's final musical may not care whether Maria is first seen as 20 going on 21, or 39 going on 40. But it matters to Schaffel.
The show begins at a convent where Maria is a postulant nun. It's an emotionally secure environment for a young woman, free from the risks that come with loving another person, Schaffel says. There, "she can devote her life to God. There's a certain safety in that decision.
"But the Mother Abbess knows that it's the wrong thing for her," and dispatches Maria to work as a governess for the children of the widower Capt. Von Trapp.
"Opening herself up to loving another person and how that changes her is very fortifying for an audience because they can relate to it."
The character's struggle, Schaffel says, is "to realize that to love other human beings is an equally fulfilling journey on behalf of God. That takes strength."
This being a musical, it also takes pipes, which is the main reason Schaffel is here. Mining the richness of dramatic literature may be one of her favorite things—"I love Shakespeare," she says, "I love O'Neill and Williams. That kind of intense scene work is what I live for"—but Schaffel is known primarily as a singer. Her Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Titanic and the title role in the 2000 musical Jane Eyre, for which she received reviewers' accolades and a Tony nomination as best actress. (Jane Eyre itself was not so well-received and ran for only six months.)
Even as a child in Miami, Schaffel's ambition was to be on the stage. "I had wanted to be an opera singer," she says, and when she was 12 or 13 her parents took her to New York to see La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. Soprano Teresa Stratas sang the lead role, and young Marla was more than impressed. "Her voice was beautiful, but she was the greatest actress I had ever seen," Schaffel says. "I was moved beyond what I thought anyone could possibly move me. It just was beyond words and it really changed my life. It made me realize I wanted to move people in that way...That's when my focus completely shifted and I just studied theater."
After high school Schaffel attended Juilliard and has been working consistently as an actor since she graduated. That doesn't mean she always knows what her next job will be. The Sound of Music tour says so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye Nov. 16 in New Haven, Conn. And then?
"I'm dying to get back to some plays," Schaffel says. "I'm talking to a couple of producers."
Fox is alive with 'Sound of Music'
By Rachel Barry,
The Michigan Daily
September 30, 2003
Detroit's fabulous Fox Theatre will come alive in its inaugural season of "Broadway at the Fox" with Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical The Sound of Music starting this evening.
Highly reminiscent of the original Broadway production that won eight Tony Awards, this 14-city tour has proven noteworthy for the vocal abilities of Burke Moses as Capt. Georg Von Trapp. Von Trapp is a retired naval officer and widowed father of seven in 1930s Austria. Seeing the captain as a bit of a "stiff," who has a tendency to be somewhat difficult, Moses says he aims to make his performance as "believable as possible. If you play it straight and play it true, you have a wonderful show." His experience creating Gaston in Disney's Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, and both revivals on Broadway of Guys and Dolls and Kiss Me Kate, have translated into an ability to achieve a believably stern yet compassionate Von Trapp. In this role he performs a touching "Edelweiss" with palpable emotion, showcasing his Broadway-esque range and tonal quality.
Moses, who has not previously worked with children, noted the influence on his performance of the talented young actors who play the Von Trapp children. He said the children added another dimension of fun to the show, and their incredible talents did more than simply move the plotline along.
For a refresher, the captain's life changes when nun novitiate Maria serves as governess to his seven children. She brings the household back to life with music, and falls in love with the captain in the process. The two return from a blissful honeymoon to discover Hitler's influence strengthening. Realizing they have returned to an unrecognizably different Austria, the family escapes through the mountains to freedom in Switzerland. After their resettlement, they once again find strength in the sound of music, of course, by forming the Von Trapp family singers and becoming internationally acclaimed in the process.
This star-studded cast also boasts the likes of Marla Schaffel as the lovable Maria, Jeanne Lehman as the wise Mother Abbess, Ed Dixon as the irrepressible Max Detweiler and Colleen Fitzpatrick as the Baroness Elsa Schraeder. In the words of Moses, "Audiences can expect a quality production."
Music is tops in show at Fox
By Neal Rubin,
The Detroit News
October 3, 2003
Some stuff I like that you might like, too:
I applauded The Sound of Music even before it started, when a deep voice came over the Fox Theatre public address system to remind people not to be obnoxious twits.
"The Sound of Music takes place in 1938," it said, "prior to the advent of the cell phone, beeper and watch alarm. So please silence all personal noise-making items."
After that lyrical beginning, the cast began to sing, and things very quickly became excellent.
This is not exactly the musical you grew up with, unless you grew up in New York around 1959 when the Rodgers and Hammerstein original was on Broadway.
That evolved into the Julie Andrews movie from 1965, which any parent from the VCR era can sing along with. The play resurfaced in New York in 1995, and the latest road show will be in town through Sunday night—simple, straightforward, and both familiar and fresh.
If some plot points seem abbreviated or only marginally explained, well, we can all connect the dots. If the sets seem low-budget—the mountains are painted, the same way they'd be at your local high school—well, we've all seen mountains.
Audiences show up for the songs, and the voices in The Sound of Music are terrific. Principally, that means Marla Schaffel as Maria, Burke Moses as Capt. Von Trapp and Jeanne Lehman as the Mother Abbess.
Lehman's rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" would be a showstopper even if it didn't come right before intermission. There are also plenty of light moments, like when one of the interchangeably adorable Von Trapp kids calls the Nazi banner "that flag with a spider on it."
Tickets run from $48 to $70.50; call (248) 433-1515, or drop by the Fox box office and save the service charge. I might not climb ev'ry mountain to see the show, but I'd take a whack at two or three of them.
A Favorite Thing
By Michael Grossberg,
The Columbus Dispatch
October 6, 2003
With fans of The Sound of Music, familiarity breeds content.
"People come in the theater humming the tunes," said Burke Moses, who plays Capt. von Trapp in the touring show. "You think of this old, dried chestnut, but, when the captain is tearing up in Edelweiss, it's amazing how much of the audience is right there with you. That's why classic shows like this are done over and over."
To launch its new Family Series, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts will present The Sound of Music beginning Tuesday in the Palace Theatre. "A number of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals lend themselves to families," said Bill Conner, CAPA president, "and there's something wonderful and powerful for kids to see kids onstage."...
"What we really needed here," Conner said, "is a family series where people can see quality programs—music and dance—in one season."
Moses, who is married with two children, relates to the family focus. "Having children makes it a lot easier to understand the captain," he said. "He's a widow and losing his country, and he feels that making his children into soldiers is perhaps a way to protect them—and to distance himself—from the memory of his wife."
The actor is co-starring in the national tour after originating the cartoonish role of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and reprising the part in Los Angeles and London. More recently, he played Fred Graham/Petruchio in the Broadway revival of Kiss Me Kate.
"The laughs were like a drug," Moses said. "Who wouldn't miss that? But the captain is far more subtle and delicate, and the pressure to carry the show is not on me. That's Marla's burden."
Marla Schaffel, a 2001 Tony nominee for her title role in Jane Eyre, plays Maria. The actress sees parallels between the characters.
"Both women find such joy in freedom and being outside," Schaffel said. "Jane Eyre had to be so restrained because of the world; Maria is lighter because she is more overt."
Although she had the "greatest joy" in originating the musical role of Jane Eyre, Schaffel appreciated the chance to develop a fresh approach to the lovable nun who becomes the von Trapp governess—and later the captain's wife.
"I like to be creative and part of the process of creating a role, whether it's a new role or a classic role in a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical," she said. "Even in my head, the role is so associated with Julie Andrews. I could hear her inflections in the song and dialogue. Of course, it is different because I'm not her."
Schaffel plays Maria as a younger "whirling dervish"—"more of what they sing about." "Because she's younger, the journey she makes in becoming a wife and mother and partner to the captain becomes clearer."
Before she romances the captain, though, Maria faces a rival. Elsa the baroness is played by Colleen Fitzpatrick, a Lancaster native who has appeared on Broadway in Cats, Passion, Company and Into the Woods. The former Miss Teenage Columbus last performed in central Ohio with the 1997 Metro Music Theatre production of Kwamina.
"My job as the baroness is to be in love with the captain," Fitzpatrick said. "The baroness is a rich woman of the era, not as contemporary in how she expresses her feelings. Because of her rank, she's a bit more reserved, but she just keeps trying to win the captain over. Everyone knows the show so well....It's wonderful to play her (the baroness), but I have to fight against feeling that the audience doesn't like her or doesn't understand her, because everyone wants to see the captain and Maria end up together.
"We all remember the movie, so we have that in our minds. But, of course, Marla is not Julie, and Burke is not Christopher (Plummer), and I am not Eleanor Powell. It's fascinating to see other actors tackle a familiar role and make it their own."
Fresh approach allows actress to shine as Maria
By Michael Grossberg,
The Columbus Dispatch
October 9, 2003
A problem like Maria? Solved, in the winning new national tour of The Sound of Music, with a fresh approach. Avoiding a saccharine imitation of Julie Andrews, Marla Schaffel comes as close to the spiritual heart of Maria as her first name is to the character's.
Schaffel—winner of a handful of awards for her turn as Broadway's Jane Eyre—is an up-and-coming actress whose best roles may be just ahead.
As nun-turned-governess-turned-wife in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about the von Trapp family, she brims with emotional sincerity and childlike joy. She's funny, too.
Her youthful approach embodies Hammerstein's lyrics that describe Maria as a "whirling dervish," a "will-o'-the-wisp" and a "clown." No wonder the von Trapp kids fall in love with her so quickly; this Maria connects with them more as an older sister than an authority figure.
And who wouldn't connect with these children? Kristen Bowden (Liesl), Eddie Pendergraft (Friedrich), Emily Klein (Louisa), Patrick S. Minor (Kurt), Maggie Watts (Brigitta), Alexa Ehrlich (Marta) and Andie Belkoff (Gretl) couldn't be cuter.
Bowden, impulsively carried away in her "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" duet with Bret Shuford's Rolf, is especially lovely as she teeters between adolescence and adulthood.
Jeanne Lehman projects maternal wisdom that makes the Mother Abbess convincingly reflect God's love. Her "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," at the end of each act, is inspiring.
As Capt. von Trapp, Burke Moses has an emotional moment when he halts in the middle [of] "Edelweiss," overcome by patriotism for Austria and sadness for what Nazi invaders have done to his country.
Moses, the original Gaston in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast, certainly looks the part of the dashing military man with an overly strict view of child rearing. But his repressed approach mostly leaves the captain overshadowed by the other performances. Here memories of the Oscar-winning 1965 film—specifically Christopher Plummer—do intrude.
Colleen Fitzpatrick almost makes Baroness Elsa Schraeder likable—well, at least understandable. Beyond the coolness and wariness of a smart woman who quickly spots Maria as her competition for the captain's affections, she reveals hints of sadness and regret about a changing world.
Under Drew Scott Harris' direction, the singing and staging are consistently strong. Kenneth Foy's picturesque scenic design highlights Austria's mountains, the Abbey's stone walls and the captain's elegant mansion.
Kudos to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts for launching its new Family Series with a superior tour.
(Many thanks to Kathy K for the two Columbus Dispatch articles!)
Review: 'The Sound of Music'
By Timothy Symington,
In the Spotlight
October 29, 2003
The crowds coming into the Bushnell to escape the dreariness of the New England fall rainy season certainly were entertained by the sound of the hills coming alive with music. The Sound of Music, that reliable Rodgers and Hammerstein success, enchanted the wet theater goers with the familiar story of Maria and the von Trapp family. Everyone who was there thoroughly enjoyed the performance, which is almost a given, considering the play itself.
Tony-nominated actress Marla Schaffel proved herself to be an incredible Maria. Whereas many in the audience, especially the many children who have seen the musical on television or recently on DVD, would be expecting a Julie Andrews look-alike in the role, Marla Schaffel delivered a strong and emotional perfomance. Her vocal range was rather intense, as proven by her conclusion of "The Lonely Goatherd." Her performance never wavered and literally controlled the show.
Burke Moses, who originated the role of Gaston in Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast," was a strong, solid Captain von Trapp. Unfortunately, he could only do so much in the role as it is written. It certainly would have been nice to see more of his abilities. His chemistry with Marla Schaffel's Maria was simultaneously intense and gentle. Jeanne Lehman played the Mother Abbess and made her come across as what Maria would have been like as a nun: passionate and very human. "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was of course the number to send one's spirits soaring!
The remainder of the cast, from the comic-relief of Max Detweiler (played by Ed Dixon) to the von Trapp children, provided a very strong, emotional and professional experience. Maggie Watts, who played Brigitta, was exceptional. Some sound logistics certainly need to be corrected, which will only enhance the experience for anyone seeing it this week. The Bushnell, as a venue for the musical, is very grand and definitely adds to the production.The backdrops that provided the scenery were amazing. But what makes this particular show work is the talent that is seen on stage, especially Marla Schaffel's performance, which no doubt will be one of someone's "favorite things."
'Sound of Music' audience can leave humming tunes
By Kathleen Rizzo Young,
The Buffalo News
November 5, 2003
Are you one of those people who complain that today's musicals don't give you hummable songs? Well, this is the week for you. When it comes to The Sound of Music, virtually every song (except maybe some of the nuns' Latin numbers) is an American standard.
The show is clearly best-known for its many familiar Rodgers & Hammerstein songs. In addition to the title tune, there's "Do-re-mi" "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and "So Long Farewell," and that's just Act 1.
And while the singers are top-drawer here, this production shines the spotlight just as firmly on the story, and as a result, the performance is fresh and moving. Marla Schaffel is a different Maria than you've ever seen before. Compared with Julie Andrews' prim and restrained interpretation, Schaffel is earthier, warmer, more playful—sometimes even a bit goofy. It's a refreshing portrayal, and vocally, Schaffel's lower register is surprisingly robust, which brings nice color to the lyrics. It's like the difference between fine crystal and beautiful pottery—both lovely but absolutely distinct.
The variations in the play may be jarring to audiences weaned on the movie. For example, when the kids gather on the bed in the storm, they don't sing "My Favorite Things." They actually sing "The Lonely Goatherd," which means there is no puppet show. "My Favorite Things" is not sung with the children at all, but as a duet between Mother Abbess and Maria, near the start of the show. Their joyous rendition is enjoyable but clearly establishes a less intimidating dimension to their relationship than is set up in the film.
The biggest obstacle in the stage version is that the film had almost three hours to play out the dramatic scenarios and realize character progressions. In necessarily condensing the plot to 2 1/2 hours including intermission, the play's relationships must progress too quickly, and therefore, less naturally.
This is especially true in Maria's relationship with the children. She must literally win them over in minutes, which detracts from the plot tension. The compressed running time also causes the budding romance between Maria and Capt. Von Trapp to seem a bit stilted because it has so little time to take shape.
The audience adored Burke Moses (Georg Von Trapp). He has a rich baritone and a commanding presence—still demonstrating some testosterone left after originating the role of Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway. His acting was a bit uneven, but his singing was filled with the emotion that his dialogue sometimes lacked. As he mourned the loss of his beloved Austria, his "Edelweiss" was a stunner—with the tears in his eyes evident all the way to the rafters.
As Mother Abbess, Jeanne Lehman brought the right combination of power, warmth and humor to the role, and as expected, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was a show-stopper.
As Baroness Schraeder, Colleen Fitzpatrick brought a cool elegance to the role of the potential wicked stepmother, and Bob Freschi's Max Detweiler lightened the mood.
But their duet "How Can Love Survive?" in which they lament the fact that the Baroness and Von Trapp are both wealthy ("Lost in our wealthy domains are we. Trapped by our capital gains are we, But we'll keep romance alive"), seems almost too light, accentuating the characters' shallowness and falseness.
The children were quite good, especially Kristen Bowden as Liesl, although the oldest son looked far too old for the part.
The opening, in which the nuns sang their vespers from the alcove off the Shea's stage, was very effective, and the sets brought the beauty of the Alps, the majesty of the abbey, and the spectacular Von Trapp mansion to life on the Shea's stage. The only misstep was a final tableau that looked a bit more Big River than The Sound of Music.
The show is being marketed to families, and children will no doubt prefer Act 1 to the more serious second act. Director Drew Scott Harris keeps everything at an entertaining, brisk pace, keeping the audience entertained and making sure everyone goes home singing the song of his or her choice.
Review of 'The Sound of Music'
By Christopher Arnott,
New Haven Advocate
November 6, 2003
My mother's family was forced to flee Austria during World War II. We've had regular Arnott family gatherings for the past decade at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., where nun-turned-governess Maria, her husband Captain Georg von Trapp and their harmonious brood ended up after their own adventurous flight from fascism. So you'd think The Sound of Music might be, to quote a phrase, one of my favorite things. But I've always thought it a thin, badly written show. The songs get minimal, abrupt set-ups from a stilted, lopsided script that spends so much time on nuns and nannies that it barely finds room for Nazis. The musical also plays fast and loose with the real-life Trapp tale, changing not only the number of kids but their names. Even the title galls me: What's "the sound of music" supposed to mean? How does it differ from just "music"?
Obviously, I'm full of s***, because The Sound of Music is a massive hit whenever and wherever it plays. I learned a lot about the show's innate virtues from this warm, fuzzy and utterly professional touring production, which I caught at Hartford's Bushnell last week and which shifts to New Haven's Shubert Nov. 11-16 (going on 17?).
Atlanta's Theater of the Stars, which brought an equally good tour of Annie to the Shubert last year, doesn't care much for innovations, updatings or intriguing casting. The company relies on trustworthy Broadway veterans, if possible enlisting those who already know a role by heart. (Here it's Jeanne Lehman, recreating the Abbess she played in the Richard Chamberlain revival on Broadway and on the subsequent tour that came to the Oakdale.) The sets are tacky but sturdy, and can fill a stage as big as the Bushnell's. Sure, one of the von Trapp kids has a huge head and seems like he could be 30 years old as easily as 14, and the "shocking" swastikas start piling up faster than at a skinhead barbershop, but maturity and overkill are major themes of the show and can easily be excused.
TOTS' resoundingly traditional Sound of Music dredged up painful memories of an awful tour of the same show, starring Marie Osmond and produced by Oscar Hammerstein's son Jamie, that came to the Shubert nearly a decade ago. This latest version made me realize one more reason that earlier one was such crap: Richard Rodgers' score calls for a careful balance of vocal tones, and Maria's voice must be evenly spaced between the sweet natural strains of the choral kiddies and the near-operatic sacred singing of the Abbess and her minions. Marla Schaffel—the Tony-nominated star of Broadway's Jane Eyre—finds that perilous pitch. Her willful Maria can also stand up to Burke Moses' brooding, bullying Georg von Trapp with something more than cutesy spunk.
Musical director Leo P. Carusone and director Drew Scott Harris stage the show's opening "Preludium," with nuns chanting in the aisles of the auditorium. A fine start to a climb-every-mountain, by-the-numbers evening where Theater of the Stars reaches for the heavens and easily surpasses my low expectations.

Picture credits, in order:
Marla in field: DuPont Theatre, wedding close-up: Houston Chronicle, Marla in nightgown: DuPont Theatre, wedding panorama: DuPont Theatre,
Marla dancing in habit: DuPont Theatre, Marla walking with children: The Washington Post (Scott Suchman),

Other spotlight pages:
My Fair Lady (2005)
Let Me Sing
My Fair Lady (2002)
They All Laughed!

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