Review: ‘Sound of Music’ debuts at Alhambra Theatre & Dining

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One of musical theatre’s most beloved shows returned to Jacksonville last week, when The Alhambra Theatre & Dining debuted its new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.”

For anyone under the age of 60, the name “The Sound of Music” likely conjures up images of the Academy Award-winning film starring Julie Andrews. Unlike previous Broadway shows that had been brought to the screen, “The Sound of Music” ventured off the studio backlot and was filmed on location in Austria, with sweeping panoramic shots of the Alps and picturesque Salzburg almost becoming characters in the film themselves.

As such, the original stage version may seem a bit contained by comparison — but the charm and appeal of “The Sound of Music” remain intact in The Alhambra’s production. Based on the true story of the von Trapp Family, the show follows the irrepressible postulant Maria (Holly Atwood) from the convent to the palatial estate of widower Captain von Trapp (Adam Fields), where she is to be the latest in a long line of governesses to his seven children. From the outset, Maria rebels against the captain’s militaristic upbringing of his children and endeavors to bring love and joy back into their lives through song. Yet even as the captain’s hardened heart begins to soften toward his children — and Maria — the family is threatened by the looming specter of Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria.

Blessed with one of the most memorable scores of all time, “The Sound of Music” offers up one Broadway standard after another — from the title song and “Do Re Mi” to “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “Climb Every Mountain.” One of the major changes in the stage version, however, is the presentation of the characters of scheming music promoter Max Detwiler (Jay Goldberg) and Baroness Elsa von Schraeder (Jennifer Medure), a wealthy socialite with her sights set on landing the captain as her husband.

Whereas in the film these characters have a more serious presentation, the stage duo comes across more like a 1930s version of Jack and Karen from “Will and Grace” as they perform two musical numbers. In “How Can Love Survive,” Max and Elsa jokingly ponder whether wealthy people can have a successful relationship.

And in “No Way to Stop It,” the pragmatic pair try to convince the idealistic captain to stop fretting about those pesky Nazis and just accept the situation. Given the coming war, however, the jaunty, comedic tone of these numbers seems a bit callous, which may explain their absence from the motion picture.

As The Alhambra’s Maria, Holly Atwood brings just the right amount of hopeful exuberance to complement her lovely singing voice. Jennifer Hudson, meanwhile, is another vocal standout as the Mother Abbess, and her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” is particularly stirring.

“The Sound of Music” runs through Sept. 26 at The Alhambra Theatre & Dining in Jacksonville.

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