Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Veteran Standby Merwin Foard Relishes His Role as Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music at DPAC

Merwin Foard stars as Capt. von Trapp's friend, the musical impresario Max Detweiler, in <em>The Sound of Music</em> (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Merwin Foard stars as Capt. von Trapp’s friend, the musical impresario Max Detweiler, in The Sound of Music (photo by Matthew Murphy)

In the current Durham Performing Arts Center production of The Sound of Music, 55-year-old Charlotte, NC native Merwin Foard (pronounced “ford,” like the car) plays Capt. Georg von Trapp’s bosom buddy, the debonair Austrian musical impresario and shameless Man-on-the Make Max Detweiler. It is a juicy role for a veteran “standby” — a.k.a. He Who Sits in the Wings and Waits — for actors to miss a performance entirely or become indisposed before or during a performance. “It’s a relief,” Foard says, “to know that I’m only going to be performing one role and performing it for eight shows a week, as opposed to having to know multiple roles. When you are waiting for the phone to ring to tell you if you’re on or not, it’s a very different level of stress.

“… When I left Aladdin” — where he stood by for the actors who played Jafar and the Sultan — “to come and do [the 2015-16 National Tour of] The Sound of Music, I was standing by for my 29th and 30th actors on Broadway,” notes Foard, who has stood by for Nathan Lane, who played Gomez Addams in The Addams Family; for Michael Cerveris, who played the title role in the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd; and for Brian Stokes Mitchell, who played Fred Graham/Petruchio in the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate.

Foard, who also played FDR in the 2012 Broadway revival of Annie, estimates that he has performed in 16 Broadway shows in his 35-year professional career. He’s also been part of the vocal ensemble in a number of Disney films, including Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The King of Thieves, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Home on the Range, Enchanted, Tangled, and Frozen Fever.

Foard reflects, “When you’re standing by for Nathan Lane [in a Broadway show], that’s its own trick bag … in the sense that the audience expects to see this iconic actor, and he’s not there. The audience looks at me and says, ‘Who’s this guy; he’s not famous.’ So, you start your performance in a hole, and have to win them over. The [2012] documentary “The Standbys” — in which Foard starred — “showcases that very situation.” The movie’s motto is: “Some Spend a Lifetime in the Shadows … for a Moment in the Spotlight.”

Merwin Foard (left), Teri Dale Hansen, and Ben Davis star as musical impresario Max Detweiler, wealthy widow Elsa Schraeder, and Austrian patriot Capt. Georg von Trapp in <em>The Sound of Music</em> (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Merwin Foard (left), Teri Dale Hansen, and Ben Davis star as musical impresario Max Detweiler, wealthy widow Elsa Schraeder, and Austrian patriot Capt. Georg von Trapp (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Merwin Foard is certainly enjoying his moment in the spotlight in The Sound of Music at DPAC. He relishes the role of Max Detweiler. “Max is one of the better friends of Capt. von Trapp — I consider him to be a confidant of the captain’s,” says Foard. “But he’s also — to a point — a self-serving opportunist who thinks that he sees the big picture of this Nazi invasion of Austria for what it is, and he strives to encourage others to just get along with the Nazis.

“It is not until the end of the piece that he realizes that he may have been wrong,” Foard explains. “Then he likely puts his life on the line by assisting the von Trapp family in their escape from Austria.”

He adds, “Not much in my own life is Max, other than his joie de vivre and his ability to enjoy the finer things in life, especially if he’s not paying for them.” Foard says that the lines in the script that encapsulate Max’s philosophy of life are, “I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I’m with them….”

“Our wonderful director, Jack O’Brien, challenged us to bring something personal to our roles,” reveals Merwin Foard, “so that the dialogue and songs mean something. Consequently, the audience experience is changed. Because it means something to us, it will mean something to them; and it becomes a very emotional performance. People tell us, ‘I’ve never cried at The Sound of Music before, but I cried six times tonight.'”

Foard adds, “We’ve also delved into the wit of The Sound of Music. It’s funny, especially the part that I play. Max is a pithy guy, and provides much of the comic relief that offsets much of the dark overtones of the pending Nazi invasion.”

He adds that Triangle theatergoers need to get their tickets quickly. “By the time the reviews come out,” Foard claims, “This show will be sold out. If and when you see this production, you will see it with a new set of eyes.

“There’s something so powerful about this production that makes it a must see [musical],” says Merwin Foard. As hard as it is to believe, he says, there are “[many] people who have never seen the [1965] movie and never seen the show on the stage. We reintroduce [The Sound of Music] in a beautiful way for those who do know it, but they’ll feel like they’re seeing it for the first time.”

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 2nd Raleigh, NC Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare:; Dec. 2nd Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: and Nov. 25th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); Dec. 2nd Burlington, NC Times-News review by Logan A. White for “Teens & Twenties”: and Nov. 25th preview by Logan A. White:; Dec. 2nd Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter:; Nov. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks:; Nov. 25th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:; Nov. 19th Charlotte, NC Charlotte Observer preview by Lawrence Toppman:; and April 29th New York City preview by Andrew Gans: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 2nd Triangle Review preview and the Dec. 3rd review, both by Robert W. McDowell, click and, respectively.)

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE SOUND OF MUSIC at 8 p.m. Dec. 4, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 5, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $30-$145. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and


TOUR: and






NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5th, performance.


The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949 memoir): (Wikipedia).

The Memoir: (Google Books).

Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp (née Kutschera, author, 1905-1987): (Wikipedia).

The Sound of Music (1959 Broadway and 1961 West End musical): (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

The Sound of Music (1965 film): (Turner Classic Movies page), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family by Joan Gearin: (Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4, of Prologue magazine, published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration).

Richard Rodgers (composer, 1902-79): (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Oscar Hammerstein II (lyricist, 1895-1960): (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Howard Lindsay (playwright, 1889-1968): (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Russel Crouse (playwright, 1893-1966): (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database, and (Wikipedia).

Jack O’Brien (director): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: Features, Lead Story, Theatre Feature