Almost as if on cue, just in time to usher in the holiday season, Networks Presentations has landed at the Lexington Opera House with an entertaining rendition of the iconic musical “The Sound of Music.” The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is the second offering in this season’s Broadway Live! Series, and is sure to please audiences with the familiar tunes and sweet story in a production running through Sunday evening.
Directed in a straightforward manner by Matt Lenz, the show moves along at a steady pace with no really weak links.
The crucial role of Maria, originated on Broadway by the great Mary Martin, then immortalized in the film by Julie Andrews, is a tall order for any actress: she must carry the serious domestic and political plot while wading believably through all the syrupy sweetness and earnest virtue of the role. Jill-Christine Wiley brings a wholesome charisma to the part, playing it for the truth of the story rather than the comedy of the situations. Her pop-style singing voice reminds one more of Disney princesses than of Broadway leading ladies, but is serviceable enough for the well-known songs.
As Captain von Trapp, Mike McLean works hard to bring gravitas to the role, but he is miscast — too young and all-American, lacking the bearing and manner of a naval commander, and possessed of a thin, nasal singing voice that doesn’t work for the character. Nevertheless, he is likeable, and is convincing in his love scenes with Maria.
At the core of “The Sound of Music” is the group of seven children. All of them in this production are cute and winsome, though on opening night, I found Kurt (Arick Brooks) and Brigitta (Katie Grgecic) particularly engaging. Keslie Ward portrays Liesl, the teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood, very effectively — her piping voice and nuanced acting help her steal her scenes with the Hitler youth Rolf, played blandly by Chad P. Campbell.
The character of the Mother Abbess is the moral and emotional anchor of the story, and Lauren Kidwell fulfills that function nobly for this production. She makes refreshing acting choices with the role, which she conveys with clear yet subtle strokes, and her powerhouse singing of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” at the end of Act 1 is essentially the climax of the show. Her fellow nuns also fulfill their comic and dramatic purposes with vigorous flair.
Two of the most interesting characters in “The Sound of Music” are the Captain’s cosmopolitan friends from Vienna, the wealthy magnate Elsa Schraeder and the show business impresario Max Detweiler. It is customary for actresses to play Elsa as trying unsuccessfully to compete with Maria in levels of warmth and sincerity, but Melissa McKamie takes a chillier, more corporate-like approach which acts as a neat foil to Wiley’s almost cloyingly precious Maria. Similarly, Jake Mill’s Max presents a bracing jolt of cynicism and greed, as if to emphasize the eerily modern themes in this almost-60-year-old show.
The scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt is a hodge-podge of styles and looks, perhaps a little too sparse on the stage at times, but colorful and organized in such a way as to flow cleanly from one scene to the next.
The small orchestra under the direction of Michael Uselmann serves the score beautifully in this solidly professional touring production of a timeless classic.
Tedrin Blair Lindsay: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘The Sound of Music’
What: National tour of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic by Networks Presentations
When: 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 18, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.