KPBS AIRDATE: July 28, 2006
The hills are alive… with the sound of very familiar music. You might be tempted to sing along. But try to restrain yourself. The onstage talent has it covered. Nearly a ½-century old, “The Sound of Music” is filled with household favorites, including “Do Re Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” and ”Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Lamb’s Players Theatre’s “American Rhythm” is a whirlwind, a veritable tsunami of tunes, 230 of ‘em in abbreviated form, from ragtime to rap, spanning the entire 20th century. These are reprise productions, and in both cases, the third time isn’t quite a charm.
Lamb’s is bringing back a frothy musical revue developed on the heels of its hugely successful “Boomers.” There’s something for every age in this one, snippets from each decade of the century, mostly in chronological order, only a few sung in their entirety, which can be frustrating, though some of the medleys are highly imaginative. The 7-piece band is wonderful, under the musical direction of gifted singer/pianist Don LeMaster; you’d be a fool to leave early and miss the little post-show performance. This new, but unrevised version, directed by co-creator Kerry Meads with choreography by Pamela Turner, boasts an energetic and enthusiastic 10-member cast, though it’s not as vocally thrilling as earlier incarnations, and a whole lot less funny. An excellent addition is multi-talented Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, who sings and dances superbly, and plays a mean fiddle. The standout male movers are Lance Smith and Angelo D’Agostino. Everyone gets a notable moment in the spotlight, and they sport ever-changing, era-defining costumes.
It’s all about lederhosen in “The Sound of Music.” This isn’t Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best, though it was their last. There are some real pleasures in Moonlight’s outdoor production; the singing is generally strong, the staging, by Don and Bonnie Ward, is often clever, and beautiful-voiced Beverly Ward is thoroughly likable as the spunky postulant, Maria. Randall Dodge puts in an impressively controlled performance as serious and stodgy Capt. Von Trapp, and their connection is quite credible. The Nazi encroachment is played up, using the aisles to good effect. But this is, at heart, a love story, with cute kids doing cute things, though they’re not always precisely on key, especially in the title song. Still, their energy is infectious and the smallest of them, 6 year-old Skylar Starrs Siben, is especially irresistible. The nuns in the Abbey do lovely a capella singing, but more of it than we need. In the pit, the 20-piece orchestra is robust, but the overall look and sound of this production underscore the treacly schmaltz of the show.
Don’t look for any deep messages in these musicals, beyond Climb Your Mountain and Sing Your Songs. Mostly, they’re just a pleasant, if protracted, summer stroll down memory lane.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.