My eyes rolled when I heard Broadway in Tucson was bringing “The Sound of Music” to Centennial Hall.
I’ve seen the 57-year-old musical several times. Seen the movie. Saw the awful live TV broadcast a few years back with Carrie Underwood as Maria.
But I’ve never seen it like this.
The Jack O’Brien-directed production, here through Sunday, Dec. 4, has all the wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein music. The love story between the novice Maria and Captain von Trapp was there, as were those adorable children who learn to embrace music and life under Maria’s tutelage.
But the secondary story — about the emerging power of the Nazi party and its encroachment on Austria — took on a deeper, disturbing tone in this production. Tony-winner O’Brien did not give us your grandmother’s “The Sound of Music.”
Maybe it’s just seeing the play filtered through the lens of increased hate crimes in this country. But when “No Way to Stop It” was sung at the top of the second act — a song meant to convince von Trapp he needed to go along with the Nazis rather than resist, it was kind of chilling:
“A crazy planet full of crazy people,/ Is somersaulting all around the sky./ And every time it turns another somersault,/ Another day goes by. / And there's no way to stop it…”
Then, when the von Trapp family sings at a festival that they use as a cover to escape, huge Nazi flags serve as their backdrop — well, try to sit through that and not squirm.
Solid performances, golden voices, beautiful sets and seamless scene changes all made the piece resonate even more.
At Wednesday’s performance, Anna Mintzer replaced the usual Maria, Kerstin Anderson, and it’s hard to imagine anyone better. Mintzer cut out the sweetness and gave us directness and honesty. And her voice soared.
The children occupy a central role in this play, and while there was some unevenness in the acting, the singing was spot on. And they, too, were never cloying. Cute, sure, but not teeth-achingly sweet, the way they are often portrayed.
Ben Davis has a commanding presence as von Trapp, but he also gave the character a tender side, making us root for him even as he attempts to summon his children with a dog whistle.
And Melody Betts voice rang out over Centennial. Her Mother Abbess was definitely holy. You’ll want to strap on the backpack and do what she says when she sings “Climb Every Mountain.”
Sometimes, when pieces have been around for awhile, we take them for granted. Even dismiss them.
Don’t do that with this “The Sound of Music.” You’ll be tempted to sing along, fall in love with the characters, and, by the end, you’ll find that your hope is tainted with some real sorrow for the state of the world.