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Lyric Opera "Sound of Music" review

Last night we had the pleasure of using 4 tickets I won via a giveaway from Chicago Parent magazine. They were--ostensibly--a "family 4 pack" though with a 2 year old and 3 year old, we opted to leave the kids at home with a babysitter instead. (She had them both asleep in bed when we arrived home!) We ended up taking an old college friend of mine and her husband...they have a 9 month old little boy at home. So it was an exciting occasion to double date parents-night-out.

The stage version of Sound of Music definitely has those not-up-to-par, unfamiliar songs that leave the audience scratching their heads. Though as an old theatre geek, my comment is that there's a good reason they were left out of the screen version. And a few are mixed up. Maria uses the goat herding song to calm the kids down during the storm. And the familiar, beloved "My Favorite Things" is actually sung by Maria to the head of the nuns. In remembering the childhood song, it ends up as a duet. Which, by the way, was brilliantly done by last night's cast.

The core of the adult cast included Max being portrayed by Edward Hibbert--who you may remember from several seasons of the tv show Frazier. Maria was excellent...although she gave the character a spastic, flighty quality that comes across more as odd than the innocent forgetfulness we're used to from Julie Andrews. It still worked. The children were all adorable. The singing was amazing. There's a full orchestra.

The set pieces are--as I read before the show--enough to see the show alone. Drops and props and nuns changing clothes on-stage, oh my. Hidden stairs to climb the mountain, elaborate abbey and villa staging. Bicycles being ridden around the stage. It all feels familiar yet new.

Really, that could be said about the whole production. It walks the very fine line between the old hat we're all used to and trying to do something different. This isn't a new take with any radical ideas about how to play it. It's a straight down the line show that manages to find some clever, interesting blocking. Or, at the very least, the cast plays minor moments of humor well to give the "big" feel of it some small connection with the audience. It's pretty hard to find something to pick apart about it...and I used to see a LOT of Chicago theatre back in the day. So I can think of a million ways this could be botched. It's not.

If you saw the popular NBC version awhile back, imagine if that stage play was done with better everything. I'm not sure I'd have paid to see a very familiar musical, but what I can say is that if you're thinking of going there's nothing to hold you back here. Go sit down, take a load off, and enjoy an evening of entertainment that is about as good as you'll see in a theater in Chicago. If you're a student of this kind of Broadway style spectacle, pay close attention because it's professionalism to the core.

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