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THEATER REVIEW

Maria, Von Trapp and those cute kids

Melissa Errico and John Schneider headline an amiable staging of `The Sound of Music,' much to the enjoyment of the crowd at the Bowl.

July 31, 2006|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

The hills were alive with "The Sound of Music" at the Hollywood Bowl over the weekend. This final Rodgers & Hammerstein collaboration received an agreeable concert staging by Gordon Hunt, its amiable cast headed by the proficient Melissa Errico and a winning John Schneider.

When it premiered in 1959, "The Sound of Music" won five Tony awards, including for best musical and lead actress Mary Martin, and ran for 1,443 performances. After the Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews, "The Sound of Music" entered the pantheon of indestructible crowd-pleasers.

Its popularity is understandable. Although Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's fact-based libretto is conventional, its premise -- an irrepressible Austrian postulant reignites a moribund widower and his singing family as Anschluss approaches -- is serviceable enough. Besides, "The Sound of Music" flies on its surefire songs, as the Bowl presentation demonstrated anew.

Thus, when director Hunt sent Errico's valiant Maria wandering through the terrace section boxes in the title number, a beatific glow settled over the vast venue. "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "The Lonely Goatherd," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" -- you all know the score.

As did a lush Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, planted upstage on designer Evan Bartoletti's abstract set and luxuriating in Robert Russell Bennett's orchestrations under conductor John Mauceri's expert baton.

"The Sound of Music" features rich women's choral writing, and the Mitch Hanlon Singers had thrilling cohesion. The show doesn't have many dance opportunities, but choreographer Kay Cole gave Andrea Bowen and David Larsen's ideal Liesl and Rolf fetching maneuvers for "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." Similarly, scene transitions and the climactic escape from the Third Reich benefited from Hunt's fluid overview.

Although too knowing for a naive soul, Errico's spirits and fluttery soprano were in fine fettle at Saturday's reviewed performance. When she and the show-stealing children (Bowen, Ben Platt, Mary Catherine Hughes, Andrew Hoeft, Justine Dorsey, Emma Ashford and Anza Seller) stormed the passerelle for "Do-Re-Mi," resistance was pointless. Schneider's Captain von Trapp fielded a resonant baritone and unexpected depth, very touching at his reconciliation with the kids and self-accompanied "Edelweiss."

Elsewhere, Rachel York's delectable romantic threat and Jeffrey Tambor's anywhere-accented impresario devoured their often-cut numbers, and if veteran Marni Nixon did little with the Mother Abbess' dialogue, she poured out "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" with security. One could quibble with some pro-forma moments and a nearly three-hour running time, and this show will never delight the cynical. Still, the capacity audience cheered and stood at the end, and that brings us back to dough.

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