My second show at ASU’s historic Gammage theater saw me witnessing The Sound of Music. I remember seeing this as a child in the form of the Julie Andrews movie. I don’t quite recall many details other than it was very long, she sang with the children, and they had to escape from a church at the end for reasons I didn’t really grasp as a child. Seeing it live as an adult helped put a few things into perspective for me. Spoilers to follow!
The Movie vs. The Musical
Given how popular the movie was in the USA, it’s hard not to make the comparisons. Easily, the musical is my preferred version. I feel it gives a more complete picture of the events: Maria finds herself at the abbey because she always saw the nuns singing in the garden. She spends lots of time in the abbey during the course of the musical which is something I don’t remember from the movie. The only thing I remember of the abbey from the movie is that the Von Trapps had to flee there at the end. The spectacle of the live musical is also something to behold: This version had incredible sets that slid in and out of view on invisible tracks; nary a stagehand was ever seen on stage. The way they hid movement of set pieces was quite brilliant as well: the stage had these columns that acted as borders to frame a scene and they would shrink the action to a very small area while larger set pieces were being moved out of view. Very clever!
I think the musical itself was quite good and it’s hard to find many gripes about it. The characters all had their brief moments to shine, although some of the Von Trapp children really didn’t get much fleshing out in terms of their character. The songs are so iconic and well-known at this point for a US audience that the story seems to go by swiftly; it felt as though I blinked and the first act was finished. The second act, while very heavy with story, did feel a bit rushed: love confession, marriage, Nazis, fleeing to Switzerland. I did like the subtle setups they made to introduce the looming Nazi menace in Austria; it wasn’t as real or perturbing as it was in Cabaret, but it matched the mood for the overall musical, so I can’t complain. The only other thing I might say was a bit lacking was the music in the second act: Every song, save Edelweiss, was recycled from the first act. That being said, I think they recycled them to show the growth and development of the characters by spiraling back to those songs.
Overall, the Jack O’Brien version of The Sound of Music that came to Gammage was incredible: My eyes feasted on the costumes and sets, my ears rang with playful melodies, and my heart was engaged and concerned with the fate of all the characters, even Rolf, who had a delicate choice at the end that allowed the von Trapps to escape. I would highly recommend seeing this musical live if you ever get the chance!
What do you think? Do you like live musicals better than movie versions? Let me know in the comments!