On April 20-22, the Durham Performing Arts Center will present five performances of a brand-new National Tour of The Sound of Music in its 2,700-seat state-of-the-art theater in the American Tobacco Historic District. The 1959 Broadway and 1961 West End musical was once so popular in these parts that the old Ambassador Theatre in downtown Raleigh screened the 1965 motion picture of The Sound of Music nonstop for more than a year!
This perennial Triangle audience favorite, produced by NETworks Presentations of Columbia, MD, originally directed by three-time Tony Award® winner Jack O’Brien (Hairspray in 2003, Henry IV in 2004, and The Coast of Utopia, Parts 1-3 in 2007), and originally choreographed by Danny Mefford (2015 Best Musical Tony winner Fun Home, The Bridges of Madison County, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), is set in Salzburg, Austria in early 1938, just before and after the Anschluss by which Nazi Germany forcibly incorporated Austria into the Third Reich. The tour stars Jill-Christine Wiley as free-spirited Nonnberg Abbey postulant Maria Rainer (1905-87) (whom The Mother Abbess — played by Lauren Kidwell — and her fellow nuns characterize as “A flibbertigibbet — A will-o’-the-wisp — A clown”) and Mike McLean as gruff, no-nonsense former World War I Austro-Hungarian Navy submarine commander Captain Georg von Trapp (1880-1947).
“At some point,” says 29-year-old Downey, CA native Lauren Kidwell, “everyone has heard of The Sound of Music.” She adds, “[This tour] has a fresh take, and puts a fresh spin, on the show…. It breathes new life and new energy into the show, and brings humanity to the show…. We really focus on the human beings that the story is about, and the real dangers that they faced [in German-occupied Austria in 1938].”
Kidwell claims, “This show is about music, love, and family. But it’s also about standing up for what you believe, and doing the right thing when no one else will.”
The Sound of Music made its Broadway debut, directed by Vincent J. Donehue, with musical staging by long-time Lost Colony director Joe Layton, on Nov. 16, 1959 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, later transferred to the Mark Hellinger Theatre, and racked up a combined total of 1,443 performances before closing on June 15, 1963. The show earned nine 1960 Tony nominations and won five awards, including the Tonys for Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Mary Martin as Maria), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Patricia Neway as The Mother Abbess).
The Sound of Music features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, “suggested” by Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp’s 1949 memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. (For the straight skinny on the story, click here.) The Sound of Music added its title tune, “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “Edelweiss” to the show-tune repertoire.
In addition to Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria, Mike McLean as Captain von Trapp, and Lauren Kidwell as The Mother Abbess, the tour cast includes Jake Mills as Captain von Trapp’s friend, conniving musical impresario Max Detweiler; Melissa McKamie as the captain’s girlfriend, wealthy widow Baroness Elsa Schraeder; Keslie Ward as his 16-going-on-17-year-old daughter Liesl; Chad P. Campbell as Liesl’s 17-year-old Nazi-sympathizing boyfriend, telegram delivery boy Rolf Gruber; Paul Schoeller as Liesl’s 15-year-old brother Friedrich; Sienna Laura Ann Berkseth as his 13-year-old sister Louisa; Matthew Law as her 11-year-old brother Kurt; Valerie Wick as his 10-year-old sister Brigitta; Amaryllis C. Miller as her seven-year-old sister Marta; Sophia Massa as her five-year-old sister Gretl; Stephanie Gray as Captain von Trapp’s housekeeper Frau Schmidt; Isaac Ryckeghem as his butler Franz; dance captain Srarah Brackett as another member of the von Trapp household staff named Ursula; Carey Rebecca Brown as Sister Berthe the Mistress of Novices; Allison Macri as Sister Margaretta the Mistress of Postulants; Elisabeth Evans as Sister Sophia; Melissa Weyn as Admiral von Schreiber; Randy Charleville as Baron Elberfeld; Annie Sherman as Baroness Elberfeld; and Adam Ross Glickman as the sinister local Austrian Nazi Gauleiter Herr Zeller. The Ensemble includes Caleb Adams, Colten Blair, Mackenzie Dade, Danielle Lee James, and Ariana Valdes. Swings include Nicholas Newman, Katie Wily, Thanos Skouteris, and Christina Tompkins.
Lauren Kidwell, who won’t be a thirtysomething for some months yet, admits that she’s about half the age of the actresses who usually play the Mother Abbess — but that’s on purpose. “This production wanted a younger Mother Abbess…,” she says. “They wanted to create a special relationship between Maria and the Mother Abbess. Maria and the Mother Abbess are more similar than they are different…. Perhaps, the Mother Abbess went through the same thing as Maria, and she chose the church instead of marriage.”
“Right before I got this job and was hired for this tour,” Kidwell confesses, “I was trying to be an actor [in New York City] and trying to decide whether to go back to California.”
Lauren Kidwell, who earned bachelor’s degree in theater and directing from Cal State Fullerton in 2010 and an MFA in musical theater from Boston Conservatory in 2014, moved to the Big Apple in 2014. She says she was playing Mother in the Brooklyn Players Community Musical Theater’s seventh annual production of Ragtime when she successfully auditioned for the 2017-18 national tour of The Sound of Music, which commenced on Sept. 1-3 at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, WA, and is scheduled to conclude on May 1-13 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in Boston, MA.
Besides director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Danny Mefford, the tour’s creative team includes executive producer Trinity Wheeler, tour director Matt Lenz, tour choreographer Jonathan Warren, production manager Hector Guivas, musical supervisor Andy Einhorn, music coordinator John Mezzio, music/director conductor Michael Uselmann, Tony-nominated scenic designer Douglas W. Schmidt (42nd Street and Into the Woods), four-time Tony winner lighting designer Natasha Katz (Once, Aida, The Coast of Utopia, and The Glass Menagerie), costume designer and 2014 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre recipient Jane Greenwood, costume coordinator Jimm Halliday, hair and wig designer Bernie Ardia, sound designer Shannon Slaton, and stage manager Mary Dennis. The show also features orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and dance and vocal arrangements by Trude Rittman.
Lauren Kidwell was born into a musical family in 1988 in Downey, CA. “My grandparents on both sides of my family sang opera,” says the 5’4″ soprano with a belt and a 3+-octave range. Kidwell says her dad is a multi-instrumentalist, and she and her three sisters form what she calls, tongue in cheek, “The Kidwell Family Singers.”
Kidwell says, “I grew up watching movie musicals. Then I started doing theater when I was in high school.” Although this tour is her first production of The Sound of Music, Kidwell quips, “I sang ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ as a kid for a talent show…, [and] I knew that I wanted to go into music.” Musical theater was a natural fit.
Most of the stops on the current tour are one-, two-, and three-night stands. Lauren Kidwell says that “Putting the show up and tearing it down, and having to travel the next day” puts a lot of wear-and-tear on cast and crew. She adds, “The show is the show, and we do what we can to take care of our health….
“We have a crew of 12 or 13 people who travel with us, and do the heavy lifting,” says Kidwell. She adds, “It’s really because of their efforts that we’re able to do our job…. I enjoy so much being a part of this production and getting to tell the story every night.”
SECOND OPINION: April 18th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/love-dreams-music-sound-of-music-comes-to-dpac/; and April 10th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW interview with actor Mike McLean, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Mike-McLean-Breathes-New-Life-into-Captain-von-Trapp-and-Leads-THE-SOUND-OF-MUSIC-Back-to-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20180410.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE SOUND OF MUSIC at 8 p.m. April 20, 2 and 8 p.m. April 21, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 22 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for $20-$30 rush tickets and other DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/209813.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://thesoundofmusicontour.com/#media.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/the-sound-of-music-on-sale-at-dpac-on-june-17.
TOUR CAST & TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://thesoundofmusicontour.com/#castcrea.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (1949 memoir): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_the_Trapp_Family_Singers (Wikipedia).
The Memoir: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp (née Maria Augusta Kutschera, Austrian musician and author, 1905-1987): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_von_Trapp (Wikipedia).
The Sound of Music (1959 Broadway and 1961 West End musical): http://www.rnh.com/show/95/The-Sound-of-Music (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-sound-of-music-8195 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_of_Music (Wikipedia).
Richard Rodgers (composer, 1902-79): http://www.rnh.com/bio/175/Rodgers-Richard (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/richard-rodgers-8323 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006256/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rodgers (Wikipedia).
Oscar Hammerstein II (lyricist, 1895-1960): http://www.rnh.com/bio/154/Hammerstein-II-Oscar (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/oscar-hammerstein-ii-7965 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0358564/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Hammerstein_II (Wikipedia).
Howard Lindsay (playwright, 1889-1968): http://www.rnh.com/bio/78/Lindsay-Howard (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/howard-lindsay-6373 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0512231/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Lindsay (Wikipedia).
Russel Crouse (playwright, 1893-1966): http://www.rnh.com/bio/164/Crouse-Russel (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/russel-crouse-8531 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0189496/ (Internet Movie Database, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Crouse (Wikipedia).
The Sound of Music (1965 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/90931/The-Sound-of-Music/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059742/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/TheSoundOfMusic (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/SoundofMusic (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_of_Music_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family by Joan Gearin: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps.html (Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4, of Prologue magazine, published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration).
Jack O’Brien (original director of the 2015-17 National Tour): http://thesoundofmusicontour.com/som-member/jack-obrien/ (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6551″> http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6551″>http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6551 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0639590/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_O%27Brien_(director) (Wikipedia).
Lauren Kidwell (actress who plays the Mother Abbess): http://www.laurenkidwell.net/ (official website), http://thesoundofmusicontour.com/som-member/lauren-kidwell/ (tour bio), https://www.facebook.com/lauren.kidwell.9 (Facebook page), https://soundcloud.com/lauren-kidwell (SoundCloud page), and http://www.youtube.com/user/LaurenMKidwell (YouTube page).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)