Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were known for the many innovations they brought to the musical theater, but also for a signature streak of sentimentality. Both are evident in 1959’s The Sound of Music, which would prove to be their final collaboration.
Director Jack O’Brien has done what he can to scrape off the layers of sugar encrusted on the show in his buoyant touring production, which plays at the Kravis Center this week. But much of it is inherent in the tale of spunky nunnery postulant Maria Rainer, assigned as governess to the seven von Trapp tykes just as the Nazis were taking over Austria.
For starters, he has returned several songs to their original places and motives, after their repositioning in the Oscar-winning movie version of the show. More importantly, O’Brien has retained the two drily cynical numbers — “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It” — for Captain von Trapp’s fiancée Elsa and her toadying impresario pal, Max. So rather than reconceiving the show, as recent acclaimed revivals of Carousel and South Pacific have, this production reclaims it for its initial stage values.
Fear not, there is still plenty of time spent with the mischievous, yet adorable von Trapp children. And while the much-touted sexual chemistry between Maria and the captain here is somewhat overstated, when they get amorous in the second act, Nicholas Rodriguez shows himself to be quite a steamy kisser.
He is well matched by Charlotte Maltby — lyricist Richard (Closer Than Ever) Maltby’s daughter — as tomboyish, big-voiced Maria, a sure bet to capture the audience’s heart. Melody Betts, who usually plays the Mother Abbess, has apparently taken this week off, but Maria Failla filled in capably Tuesday evening with a full-throated rendition of the inspirational “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” that ends both acts.
The von Trapps have an actual mountain to climb, thanks to the scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt, who otherwise sticks to painted backdrops and a winding staircase for the kids to make their winsome “good nights” upon. Factor in the costumes by Jane Greenwood and lighting by Natasha Katz and you have a visually impressive production built solely for the road.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday. From $29 up. 561-832-7469.