July through November 2003:
of The Sound of Music.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The show, about the musical von Trapp family, opens at Wilmington's DuPont Theatre on Friday.
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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!
Schaffel said that people are constantly asking her what it's like to appear in a role that is so associated with another performer.
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.
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.
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.
'Sound of Music' excels: Classic has talented cast, entertains
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.
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.
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."
Sadly, he gets to use it only with "Edelweiss" and snatches of other numbers.
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.
Putting the emphasis on talent rather than tampering with the original creates a production that grandly entertains its audiences.
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.
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.
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.
Spotty 'Sound of Music' is still something good
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.
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.
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.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He's not to be found in Drew Scott Harris' better-than-average production.
Theater review: 'The Sound of Music'
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.
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.
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.
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.
Actress finds the kid inside Maria: 'Sound of Music' star emphasizes youth
How, in effect, do you solve a problem like Maria?
"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.
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."
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.
"Opening herself up to loving another person and how that changes her is very fortifying for an audience because they can relate to it."
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.)
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?
Fox is alive with 'Sound of Music'
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.
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.
Music is tops in show at Fox
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.
After that lyrical beginning, the cast began to sing, and things very quickly became excellent.
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.
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.
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.
By Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch
October 6, 2003
With fans of The Sound of Music, familiarity breeds content.
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."...
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 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."
"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."
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kudos to the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts for launching its new Family Series with a superior tour.
Review: 'The Sound of Music'
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.
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."
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.
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 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.
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 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.
The children were quite good, especially Kristen Bowden as Liesl, although the oldest son looked far too old for the part.
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.
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"?
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.
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.