Some Broadway shows age better than others. For a musical that debuted in 1959, “The Sound of Music” looks and sounds remarkably fresh. It could be easy to dismiss the show as a Rodgers and Hammerstein “warhorse,” trotted out every few years for an easy paycheck, but the touring production running at the Wharton Center has all the luster and life of a show many years younger.
In case you haven’t seen at least one adaptation of “The Sound of Music,” the story, set in 1938, follows Maria Rainer (Kerstin Anderson), a postulant seeking to join a convent in Vienna. Due to Maria’s nonconformist, artist-driven spirit, Mother Abbess (Ashley Brown) instead assigns Maria to be the governess for rich widower and former navy captain Georg von Trapp (Ben Davis) and his seven children. Of course, Maria wins the heart of the captain as well as his children — but first they must flee the country to escape from the invading Third Reich.
While Julie Andrews made the role of Maria iconic on stage and screen, she set a template rather than an unattainable standard. As the touring Maria, Anderson sets her own course with a ceaseless smile and vivacious charm. She’s something like the best elementary school teacher you could hope for. Her clear voice and crisp delivery make every word understood.
As the initially cold-mannered Georg, Davis deftly walks the fine line of expressing his inner pain while still keeping a straight face. It’s a joy watching him warm to Maria’s charms and reconnect with his children. One of the most powerful moments comes at the end of the production, as Davis sings a somber, solo version of “Edelweiss,” expressing all the sadness of someone leaving his home country.
All seven of the von Trapp children (Paige Silvester, Jeremy Michael Lanuti, Maria Suzanne Knasel, Quinn Erickson, Svea Elizabeth Johnson, MacKenzie Currie, and Audrey Bennett) are delightful. They act and sound like siblings who have had to look out for each other.
The show also includes strong supporting performances from Merwin Foardas as the unctuous but hilariously Max Detweiler, Brown as the wise Mother Abbess and many others.
Technical elements, from ornate set pieces to brilliant lights to a full orchestra, help provide an appropriately epic visual and audio landscape. Mix in timeless songs like “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and “Edelweiss,” and this touring version of “The Sound of Music” is a classic that lives up to the original while still feeling completely relevant.
“The Sound of Music”
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9-Thursday, Feb. 11; 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13; 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14 Tickets start at $38/$25 students Wharton Center, 750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing (517) 432-2000, whartoncenter.com