Some shows never get old, especially when they get a fresh viewpoint every once in a while.
For me, “The Sound of Music” is one of those shows.
A new, shiny and heartfelt production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein favorite premiered Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theater, part of a Broadway tour that started in 2015 under the direction of Jack O’Brien, winner of three Tony Awards. I was impressed, and judging from the curtain calls, so was the rest of the crowd.
It’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone who doesn’t know the story, but here’s a synopsis: Maria, a postulant in a convent near Salzburg, Austria, becomes a nanny for the seven children of an imposing former naval officer, Capt. Georg von Trapp, in the late 1930s, as the German invasion looms. She’s a little unorthodox for a nun, and the Mother Abbess wants her to discern her true vocation.
The widowed von Trapp originally hopes to marry Elsa Schraeder, but their differing opinions on how to get along with the Nazis — along with his growing attraction to Maria — end that relationship. Maria and the captain marry and are forced to flee the country with the kids when the captain refuses to accept a commission in the German navy.
This version of that familiar story owes a lot to O’Brien’s vision, especially his casting.
Charlotte Maltby plays Maria with lots of vigor and sass, giving her a tomboy sensibility. She also has a lovely, expressive singing voice. O’Brien has found a winner in Maltby, who just joined the tour at the beginning of the year. Like her predecessor, she’s considerably younger than many who have played the role in the past.
As Capt. von Trapp, Ben Davis is a worthy counterpart, starting off stern and becoming more human once music returns to his house and he falls in love. He, too, is a wonderful singer.
And on Tuesday night, an understudy gave a standout performance. Cáitlín Burke played the Mother Abbess, and her “Climb Every Mountain” was one of the best I’ve seen (and as an inveterate “Sound of Music” fan, I’ve seen a lot.) Her sincere and powerful delivery made me see the song in a whole new light — it was way more than a showstopping vehicle for a high soprano. Burke made the lyrics resonate.
Liesl, the oldest von Trapp child, is played by Paige Silvester, who seems to be closer to “16 going on 17” than many of her predecessors. She and Rolf (Austin Colby), the boy who captures and breaks her heart, perform their dance number with charm. The rest of the kids also are delightful.
This version hews closely to the original 1959 Broadway show, not the 1965 movie. Fans of the film might find it jarring that songs are moved around: Maria and the Mother Abbess sing “My Favorite Things,” for instance, and “The Lonely Goatherd” soothes the kids during the storm. There’s no puppet show.
It also has a couple of songs that aren’t in the movie, “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It,” breezily performed by Teri Hansen as Schraeder and Merwin Foard as Max Detweiler. These — along with other touches O’Brien added along the way — help flesh out the characters and put more emphasis on what’s happening politically in 1938 Austria, giving von Trapp’s almost sneering disgust with the Nazis more depth.
A beautiful and deceptively simple scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt ties all the action together.
It’s always a little scary when you hear that one of your favorite musicals is being revived and revamped. Save for a couple of microphone problems, this one went off without a hitch.
No need for fear in this case — if anything, this production probably will make you love “The Sound of Music” even more.