Review: “The Sound Of Music” Brings a Family Classic to Life at DPAC


The Sound of Music on Tour (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Last week my wife and I had a fun Friday night date night in Durham and attended a performance of the touring production of “The Sound of Music” at DPAC. Like so many other people we have only seen the film version of this story and it was wonderful to see it come to life on stage with such a talented cast. From the very first scene to the final curtain the cast delivered a amazing vocals and a performance worthy of such a classic.

Inspired by the true story of an Austrian family that escaped the Nazis at the beginning of World War II, “The Sound of Music” was the last collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who died just months after the show debuted on Broadway in 1959. It ran for nearly three years on Broadway and won five Tony Awards.

The film version was released in 1965. It was a huge hit and is still considered one of the most successful films ever made. I was curious how a live performance would hold up to my high expectations.  I was not let down.

In the early scenes set in the abbey, Lauren Kidwell gives a standout performance as the Mother Abbess as she counsels of the impulsive young Postulant Maria Rainer (Jill-Christine Wiley). Their duet version of “My Favorite Things” is a standout in the show as is Kidwell’s rendition of “Climb Every Mountain”.

Of course the young actors playing the adorable von Trapp children steal almost every scene they are in. Mike McLean makes for a strong romantic lead as their widowed but devoted father, Captain Georg von Trapp. His friend Max Detweiler (Jake Mills) and love interest Elsa Schraeder (Melissa McKamie) are better developed in the stage version. This is aided to some degree with the inclusion of several songs in the production that were cut from the film.

There are a few minor differences between the movie and the stage version. Mainly some rearranging of where certain songs take place. For example, in the stage version “My Favorite Things” is a duet between Maria and the Mother Abbess – rather than the von Trapp children. There is also the elimination of the puppet show scene though the song from that scene, “The Lonely Goatherd” is part of the show, but is simply incorporated into a bedtime scene with the children instead.

There are a few parts of the show that feel a tad forced, like the quick shift of affections from Elsa to Maria but overall the characters are better developed in the theatrical performance compared to the movie, and the story arc of Maria’s falling in love with the entire family feels very real.

Act II takes on a bit of a darker tone when Austria is invaded by Nazi Germany. The sense of danger and doom is highlighted when armed soldiers enter the von Trapp household and Captain von Trapp must decided whether to defying the Nazi regime and risk his family’s safety. The presence of “Stormtroopers” and backdrop of  swastika flags during the final scenes brings a heavy dose of reality to the trials of the people during that troubling time and the sense of danger and reaction from the audience was palpable during some of these more serious scenes.

Ultimately  “The Sound of Music” is a tale of hope and love in the face of adversity and offers something for audience members of all ages to enjoy. The show was only at DPAC for a limited engagement and has already left town, but I highly recommend you try to see it if it swings back through the Triangle on a future tour. In the meantime there are several great shows coming to DPAC in the coming months. You can view the full schedule of upcoming performances here.


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