The Oxnard Plain is alive with "The Sound of Music." But if you're intending to catch the Cabrillo Music Theater's appealing production, you'd better hurry--the run ends tonight.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which opened on Broadway in 1959, is often reviled for what is thought to be its old-fashioned, near-operetta form and sticky sweetness in both story and score. Of course, both the play (which won a passel of Tonys, including those for Best Musical and Best Music) and its 1965 film adaptation were big hits.
Hammerstein was unrecognized by the Tony voters, possibly for the inordinate sloppiness of the lyrics to "Do-Re-Mi," in which he finds an analog for every note of the musical scale ("Do, a deer, a female deer, Re, a drop of golden sun. . . . " except La, which limply becomes ". . . a note to follow So").
If you've somehow managed to miss it all these years, the show follows the story of real-life Capt. Georg Von Trapp of Austria and a postulant turned governess. They and Von Trapp's rather estranged children come together just in time to form a family singing group and escape the Nazi invasion of their country. (In real life, the Von Trapps settled in Vermont, where they opened a country inn. Don't look for a sequel.)
The songs, including "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "Edelweiss," fairly drip with honey, and the plot includes the most benign bunch of Nazis to hit the stage until Mel Brooks fantasized "Springtime for Hitler." Mary Poppins would have loved it.
There are ways for cynics to enjoy the show. They might, for instance, contemplate why Rodgers and Hammerstein accepted an offer to write songs for a play about a woman who is brought in to act as governess for a politically important widower's children and winds up falling in love with the widower, when they had done that plot eight years earlier as "The King and I."
Or, they might follow "The Sound of Music" as the tale of a wealthy, politically connected man who deserts his fiancee for the company of a perky young singer.
Or, they could look at it as the story of a woman who gives up her holiest of all possible goals--becoming a nun--to marry a wealthy military hero.
The Cabrillo group, which specializes in mass-appeal material, has mounted a rather lavish production, with a huge cast--Von Trapp, postulant Maria, seven Trapp youngsters, Von Trapp's fiancee, and various servants and friends and numerous Nazis and nuns. Plus, there's a 16-piece orchestra.
No wonder there was no room in the printed program to credit composer Richard Rodgers, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II or book writers Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
Rebecca Haines plays the vivacious Maria. Her singing style more than slightly resembles that of Julie Andrews, but she appears to be considerably younger than Andrews, who was 30 at the time of the film. Mary Martin was 45 when she starred on Broadway in the role, which was written for her.
Joe Ehlinger plays Von Trapp, stiffly authoritarian when we meet him, making his children wear uniforms and summoning them with a bosun's whistle. And, though he loosens up a bit, he doesn't really show much more charm as the show progresses.
The children are played, in ascending order of age, by Heather Ramsay, Kendra Douglas, Melissa Webster, Keith Lawler, Cheri Viselli, Jerrod Andrews and Lisa Jourdan. As eldest daughter Leisl, Jourdan is courted by incipient Nazi Rolf, portrayed by John Jarvis.
Keith Hurt is seen and heard (barely, thanks to a malfunctioning microphone at Sunday's matinee) as Max Detweiller. If the Von Trapps were the Partridge Family, Hurt would be manager Reuben Kinkaid. Deena Collette is the Mother Abbess, and Mary Super plays Baroness Elsa Schraeder, whom the captain is about to marry.
Director Sean Moran handles the rather bulky cast with reasonable adroitness and imagination, combining scenes and songs from the Broadway and film versions.
The elaborate stage set was rented from the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera. It has also been seen, Moran reports, behind Florence Henderson in a Los Angeles Music Center production of the show. The rumbling heard a couple of times Sunday afternoon wasn't an avalanche, at it turned out, but some bulky scenery being moved behind the curtain.
* WHERE AND WHEN
'The Sound of Music" closes tonight at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium, 800 Hobson Way in Oxnard. Curtain time is 8 p.m., and tickets range from $12.50 to $17. For reservations or further information, call (805) 483-8859.