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The Sound of Music stops at Civic Center Music Hall



Christopher Plummer’s version of handsome but emotionally cold widower Captain Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music’s defining cinematic telling might not be as iconic as Julie Andrews’ guitar-playing nun Maria, but it is no less essential.

The 1965 film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (itself an adaptation of the real Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers) is immortal as a sweet and comforting family movie. OKC Broadway presents a truer-to-source, nationally touring stage production directed by Jack O’Brien Oct. 11-16 at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave.

Plummer, a celebrated stage and screen actor, has often looked back on his role in The Sound of Music with Captain von Trapp’s same lack of whimsy. In a 2011 interview with Hollywood Reporter, he called the film “awful and sentimental and gooey” (though he went on to say the movie is very good “for what it is”).

“I think that’s a shame,” said Ben Davis, who has been touring for the last year in the O’Brien stage production as the von Trapp family patriarch. “There’s so much to this character, and I think he goes through such a transformation and a story of redemption.”

Character depth

Beyond the film version’s flowery tint, von Trapp stands out as the story’s most emotionally complex character.

“A lot of times, we just think about the captain as this very stern, angry guy,” Davis said in a phone interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “That’s very simplistic, so why is he that way?”

The reasoning, the actor said, is best found in the original text of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. The story takes place in 1938 Austria just before the country was annexed by Nazi Germany. Davis, who said his turn as von Trapp was also supplemented by his own research of the historic captain, called it a dangerous time of great unknowns.

Furthermore, von Trapp still hurts from the grief of his wife’s death. Davis approaches the father’s distress with a clinical understanding.

“The kids are just a reminder of that wound, so he shuts himself off from them because it’s just too painful to be around them,” he said. “Because of that, the joy in his life has just gone out.”


Solving Maria

Davis, who has been working in theater since 1997, played von Trapp in a regional Sound of Music production at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse three years before he was cast again for the national tour. Recently, he played Curly in a production of Oklahoma! at The Muny in St. Louis, an opportunity the Indiana native called one of the most fun experiences in his life.

When Davis brings The Sound of Music to present-day Oklahoma, he will be accompanied by Kerstin Anderson, who plays Maria. Anderson, counter to Davis’ nearly two decades of professional acting experience, is a bit of a newcomer to theater. She was in her sophomore year of college when she was cast as the production’s lead.

Davis, who was cast before Anderson, recalls reading with several potential Marias before the production began. He knew right away that Anderson was the obvious choice.

“There’s just something so unique, quirky and fun and real and fresh about her,” he said. “We have formed a really great stage relationship as well as an offstage relationship as friends. It’s a real pleasure to feed off of that onstage.”

After Andrews, Checotah-raised country music star Carrie Underwood is probably the most famous person to be cast as the story’s protagonist. Davis said he was a fan of Underwood’s The Sound of Music Live!, which aired on NBC in 2013, from the standpoint that it was the first time many people likely had experienced the true musical.

Some critics gave harsh reviews of the broadcast, sometimes citing amateurish acting by Underwood. Nevertheless, it became NBC’s most watched non-sports TV event since the 2007 Golden Globe Awards.

Here to stay

The popularity should come as no surprise. Adjusted for inflation, Guinness World Records ranks The Sound of Music as the fifth highest grossing film of all time, generating the modern equivalent of more than $2 billion in just over five decades. Davis said he thinks part of that broad appeal comes from a story that entertains across generations.

Another reason for the story’s success is how universal its music and score has become. Billboard lists the soundtrack for the film version as the second greatest album of all time.

“I can’t imagine people who don’t know ‘Do-Re-Mi,’” Davis said, “even people that don’t know it’s from The Sound of Music.”

While the civic center show won’t be the kind of sentimental spectacle that makes Plummer cringe, Davis said there is still plenty for fans of the film to recognize in the bright production.

“It’s a family show, but it’s not a family show from the standpoint that it’s all treacle, just sweetness and sap,” he said. “It can be, but what our production has really done is to try to play the realism in it as much as possible.”

Print headline: Captain’s orders, OKC Broadway brings The Sound of Music to Civic Center Music Hall.

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