October 26, 2015 MICHAEL KNUDSEN

I recently caught the brand new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein‘s classic 1959 musical—The Sound of Musicwhich is still playing at DTLA’s Ahmanson Theatre for only seven more performances (get tickets here). Some of you might be rolling your eyes and cringing, which is exactly what I did when I first heard about this production coming to Los Angeles before embarking on a year long national tour. The Sound of Music has never been in the Company of my favorites musicals, however I’ve somehow been stuck watching the Oscar-winning 1965 film (with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer) way more times than I care to count. Yet it never truly won me over, as it was dusted with holiday cheer and saccharine year in and year out, inducing yawns without fail … time to watch the von Trapp family make their way over the Swiss mountains … again.

I won’t be the grinch that stole the nuns, there are some truly great songs in the show (“My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss”), yet Maria and the von Trapp family started to grind on my nerves each and every Xmas, running around those hills—alive with the sound of music—and let’s definitely not discuss the recent (disastrous) live TV version concocted by NBC starring Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer and Audra McDonald—the show’s only saving grace.

Before arriving at the Ahmanson (located within DTLA’s Music Center) with lowered expectations, I managed to read a couple of reviews which were surprisingly quite favorable such as the LA Timeswhich referred to it as “fresh and lively.” I started to think, maybe this isn’t going to be such a terrible evening and perhaps I was wrong all along about one of America’s most beloved and well-known musicals, even if it wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea being somewhat of a musical theater snob. I certainly can’t expect everyone to be familiar with Stephen Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown or Michael John LaChiusa—however most people know how to solve a problem like ‘Maria,’ I suddenly began to have hope … might we see Maria think outside the box for a change?

As soon as the show ended, I leapt to my feet for a standing ovation—oh I was quick in my assessment of the show—I LOVED IT—and realized I had never properly seen The Sound of Music, until now. I believe it was the intention of director, three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, to bring this show back to basics, and wipe away some of the schmaltz that built up over the years right alongside all those Christmas decorations. To help keep baggage and drama light, he selected two relatively unknown actors to play Maria—Kerstin Anderson—and Captain von Trapp—(hottie) Ben Davis, both actors had incredible vocal chops and brought a freshness to the roles, which were absolutley begging to be picked up and dusted off.

My own dramatics aside, I was completely impressed by the entire cast (wait for the goosebumps to attack you as Ashley Brown belt outs “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” at the end of the first act) which pleasantly diverts in a few ways from the film including the inclusion of two songs you’ve probably never heard before, both from the original Broadway production (with Mary Martin) that were cut from the film. I certainly didn’t expect to love this stunning production as much as I did—it refocused my attention on the heart of a truly remarkable story, based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp.

Seeing The Sound of Music revitalized in a way I never thought possible, also taught me a lesson in cynicism. As time makes things grow dusty and dull with age, perhaps a little love and attention is all that’s needed to recapture the lost shine. Prior to directing the show, Jack O’Brien said, “We plan to look more closely at this remarkable work—to tear off the varnish of the past and reveal one of the great, fresh glories of musical theater.” That’s exactly what happened, for a musical that has been stale for as long as I can remember, it finally became fresh and exciting—I didn’t compare it to the film that evening, as the story drew me in—even though I knew how it ended, we took a different path to arrive there. Kudos to Mr. O’Brien, the cast and crew for creating something quite magical and unexpected.

Don’t miss out on your chance to go from a musical skeptic to true believer—if you’re in Los Angeles—there’s only seven performances left at DTLA’s Ahmanson Theatre over the course of five days, get your tickets here. If you happen to be Dallas, Durham, Baltimore, Columbus, or Miami (to name just a few cities)—you’re in luck—the show will be touring through mid 2016, check out the full schedule on the tour’s official website. Before you know it,”Do-Re-Mi” will be tagging along with you for at least a few weeks, which I’ve know realized really isn’t such a bad thing after all … doe, a deer, a female deer—ray, a drop of golden sun

The Sound of Music

Now Touring

A brand new production of The Sound of Music, directed by Jack O’Brien, will tour North America beginning September 2015. The spirited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the Von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

“We plan to look more closely at this remarkable work — to tear off the varnish of the past and reveal one of the great, fresh glories of musical theater,” says three-time Tony Award® winning Director Jack O’Brien. Audiences across America will be among the first to see this all new production!

The Sound of Music features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp.

The Sound of Music enjoyed extraordinary success as the first live television production of a musical in over 50 years when The Sound of Music Live! aired on NBC in December, 2013 (seen by over 44 million people); 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.

MK (Michael Knudsen) first started PopBytes back in September of 2003—while trying to make a website for his design portfolio, the site quickly turned into one of the premiere online destinations for all things pop culture! A native New Yorker, he currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner Ivan along with three dogs, three cats and two parrots. Follow him on Twitter @PopBytes.