Director Matthew Alvin Brown has given us a very successful interpretation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, “The Sound of Music.” With a more than competent cast, a nicely spare unit set, and a real orchestra, Brown has delivered a humane and insightful version of the show that so many of us know only through the 1965 film. The great risk with this show is that the film is so familiar that the characters have become static icons, and it takes some courage to risk lifting them out of their history and making them unique human beings. Brown has managed this very well indeed.
Starring Dia Janae Baker as Maria, we have a truly exquisite voice in an actress of no little talent. Baker is able to give us emotive gradients within the singing, as well as provide clear motivations for Maria’s actions and choices. And with Scott Hynes as the Captain, we have an emotionally real partner to Maria—and one who can sing! In addition, since Maria is played as being in her early twenties, it is somewhat refreshing to have a Captain who is not played as being well past the half-century mark.
Oklahoma theatre icon and UCO professor of voice Marilyn Govich played the Mother Superior. Again, we have a human being with doubts and personality—not a copy of the movie, and not merely a spectacular voice that stands where told.
Even young Rolf, played by Caleb Baze, the callow “17 going on 18” sometime boyfriend of oldest daughter Liesl, is humanized. His actions make sense for a boy becoming a man while caught up in the early stages of World War II and trying to find his place in the world.
And the children are, of course, adorable. Brown gives us a couple of resistant teens, having Liesl (Sonnet Lamb) and Friedrich (Mason Imboden) refuse to become involved with “Doe, a Deer” until well along into the piece. This very normal teenage behavior makes Liesl’s awkward request for “a friend” in Maria more poignant.
While not in any way a perfect production, Brown’s version opens the museum case in which this classic musical is normally stored and lets in some light and air. The Captain’s early harshness is perhaps too intense; however, it softens beautifully when he reconnects with his children, then returns in response to the Anschluss in the second half—giving the Captain a believable range of feeling. Maria is perhaps overly sweet; when she is caught with her hand in the cookie jar (almost literally!), she becomes very funny and much more human than we are used to expecting.
There are the inevitable moments when the microphones are not synced perfectly, and occasionally there are tonal blips in the orchestra. This organic reality is both the price and the bane of live theatre.
Shows continue this Friday and Saturday evening at Mitchell Hall on the OCU campus at 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00. The website is www.summerstockok.com.