After years of review theater and film, I can honestly say I need to take a moratorium on some genres of performing arts: Shakespeare. Moliere. Anything adapting or inspired by Peter Pan. And — I hate to say it — Rodgers & Hammerstein. Honestly, few theater artists were as lushly thoughtful and transformative as the pair, but I have seen most of their 11 collaborations multiple times over just a few of the past years, and I need a break.
But I’m excited that my farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye to R&H (for a while, at least) is this new production of The Sound of Music, now at Fair Park Music Hall. Directed by Jack O’Brien (Great Scott, Hairspray) and stopping in Dallas on just the second leg of what promises to be a pre-Broadway tour, this version manages to reinvent the shopworn classic. It’s oddly refreshing, and unexpectedly powerful.
Our collective memories of The Sound of Music are largely shaped by the movie version, which came out 50 years ago. The movie deletes a few songs (including what might be one that sets the theme for the entire show, “You Just Can’t Stop It,” an eerily upbeat number about the coming Nazi storm), rearranges others and adds a few. It’s sentimental, sometimes bordering on dopey. But O’Brien’s tack — to cast an unknown college student as the novice nanny Maria (Kerstin Anderson, pictured), put youngish Broadway star Ashley Brown in the role of the Mother Abbess and develop interesting, distinct personalities for the Von Trapp children (especially Brigitta) — ends up sending volts of energy into the show and reviving it literally and metaphorically; if The Sound of Music is a monster, O’Brien is its Frankenstein.
The production moves with surprisingly alacrity, nimbly traversing more than two-and-half hours without letting one once look at your watch. That can be the magic of great theater: Forcing you to re-evaluate a familiar work with new eyes. For the first time in a long time, The Sound of Music is one of my favorite things.
Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First Ave. Through Nov. 22. DallasSummerMusicals.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 13, 2015.