Is it worth it? Should you catch this touring production of “The Sound of Music” playing Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 22?
After all, the 1965 movie version starring a splendiferous Julie Andrews remains must-watch TV viewing every year. A road tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of the film rolled through Miami in 2015. The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton mounted a fine production in 2013, the same year country pop singer Carrie Underwood took a whack at the lead role in an NBC live broadcast.
So is it really worth seeing yet another incarnation of this musical, even with its solid-gold score? The answer is yes, because you’re not likely to hear that score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II sung better than it is with this staging.
To put it simply, the vocals are glorious. Standards such as "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," "The Lonely Goatherd," "So Long, Farewell," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Something Good," "Edelweiss" and the title song are rendered in this version precisely, pristinely and perfectly. Particularly with the soaring “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” and the heartbreaking "Edelweiss,” the power of these songs is pronounced and palpable.
Loosely based on a true story, the show opens with a young Maria (Jill-Christine Wiley) preparing to become a nun in 1930s Austria. However, the Mother Abbess (Lauren Kidwell) sends Maria to be governess to the seven children of widowed Captain von Trapp (Mike McLean). The burgeoning romance of the Captain and Maria is threatened not only by a romantic rival, Elsa (Melissa McKamie), but by the rise of the Nazis.
As with the 2015 tour’s Miami stop, the sets — somehow reading more sumptuous thanks to warm glow lighting — shift to the side or materialize from behind a scrim, giving the whole show a filmic fluidity that helps make the almost three-hour length (including a 20-minute intermission) seem less of a crucible. The child actors who make up the von Trapp tykes are, as you may well imagine, seriously cute, even as a bit of rote perfunctoriness seems to have seeped in here and there.
That is all forgotten, washed away when the Nazi banners drop in the penultimate music-festival scene. Even after all these years and productions, the moment still has the ability to shock a room. Yes, even a room as big as the Broward Center’s. And then, McLean begins to sing, "Edelweiss," the last song Hammerstein wrote before dying of stomach cancer nine months after the show opened in 1959. It is a beautiful, bittersweet moment that sadly still resonates.
“The Sound of Music” runs through Oct. 22 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, with matinees 2 p.m. Saturdays (and Wednesday, Oct. 18) and 1 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $30-$150. To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.