Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
adapted from the autobiography, The Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp

INFO:

Opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre    November 16, 1959    1,443 performances
Original Director: Vincent J. Donehue
Original Choreographer: Joe Layton
Original Producer: Leland Hayward, Richard Halliday, Rodgers & Hammerstein
Original Leads: Maria: Mary Martin    Captain Von Trapp: Theodore Bikel
Cast Size: Male: 4    Female: 7    Kids: 2-5    Ensemble: at least 16, more if possible    Total Cast Size: 31, more if possible. (Doubling could bring it down to maybe 22-25.)
Orchestra: 25 or more
Published Script: Random House (good luck finding one)
Production Rights: Rodgers & Hammerstein Library
Recordings: Many, including the original Broadway, and the movie, which presents the story better than the play.
Film: The famed movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, written by Ernest Lehman, Directed by Robert Wise. A classic, and a vast improvement over the play.
Other shows by the authors: Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, Allegro, Flower Drum Song, The King And I   Hammerstein: Show Boat   Rodgers: Babes In Arms, Pal Joey, No Strings
Awards:5 Tonys, including Best Musical, Best Actress (Martin). The film won 5 Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, and Best Director.

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:
This is an enormous show, really.  It needs an orchestra, and a large cast, and big sets.  It is also one of the best known shows, and a relatively easy “sell” as far as tickets go.  So larger companies, High Schools, Colleges, Universities, large Dinner Theaters with big casts and resources available, larger stock and semi-pro companies, and perhaps some professional producers could consider it.  But it’s going to cost you.

Be Warned:

This show is simply HUGE. It is an enormous undertaking in terms of the cast size, many large sets, the look of the show, costumes that mat largely need to be built, and one of the largest orchestras in all of Musical Theatre. I will suggest numerous ways to get the budget and size of the show in hand, but be aware, this is a very large show.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: Nonnberg Abbey, Austria.

In the dark, church bells sound, and then nuns sing the “Preludium”. Lights rise as the nuns sing and “Alleluia”, in prayer. Sister Berthe takes “roll,” checking off names as the nuns enter. And various nuns start asking if anyone has seen Maria.

On a nearby mountainside, Maria sings “The Sound of Music” to the world, a love song to the hills of her native land. Later, in the office of the Mother Abbess, she and several sisters consider which postulants are ready to enter the noviate. And the subject of “Maria” comes up. It appears she sings everywhere, celebrates life in ways perhaps unfit for the Abbey, but is entirely good-hearted. The Reverend Mother decides to speak to Maria rather than about her. The Mother tells Maria that she fears for her safety in the mountains, but Maria was raised in the mountains and doesn’t fear them. Mother explains the rule against singing in the Abbey, and Maria agrees, that is the hardest rule not to break. Maria was caught singing another song from her youth, “My Favorite Things”, which she sings for the Mother to demonstrate. (Yes, this is entirely different from the film, which uses the song to far better effect in another place in the story, with the children.) The Mother, who was raised as Maria was, is moved, but asks Maria what she’s learned at the Abbey. Maria says she’s learned to find the will of God and follow it, no matter how hard it may be. The Mother tells Maria it is the will of God that she leave the Abbey for a while and care for a family with seven children, as governess. She will work for Captain Von Trapp, who was awarded a medal by the Austrian Emperor. Maria leaves, singing.

The living room of the large Trapp villa. The Captain blows a boatswain’s whistle several times, in different ways, as he walks downstairs. Finally, Franz the butler appears. The Captain wants to know why the housekeeper did not answer the whistle, and she appears to tell him she was answering the phone. They discuss the fact that they go very quickly through governesses for some reason. The Captain lets them know he’ll be leaving after tomorrow for a month and then returning with two guests, hiss friend, Herr Detweiler, and Frau Schraeder, a women who wants to marry him. He exits, and the two working people discuss the fact that he did not use the whistle while his wife was still alive.

Maria arrives at the door. The Captain is not friendly., and insists she put on a better dress before meeting the children. She hasn’t any other dresses, having given them away when she entered the Abbey. He instructs her as to schedule in his humorless fashion. He blows his whistle, the seven children enter variously and stand in a line, almost at attention. Maria watches with some horror as he introduces her to the kids and teaches her the sound of each child’s whistled summons. She lets him know that she won’t whistle for them, and won’t respond to a whistle. He insists, leaves her the whistle and starts out. She blows hard, he stops, and she asks how she is to address him. He informs her he is “Captain”, and departs. She meets the children, and likes them instantly. She wants them to sing with her, but they don’t know any songs. Talking a guitar from one of the girls, she teaches them, and they all sing “Do-Re-Mi”.

Outside the villa, the eldest daughter, Liesl, talks to a young Germanic boy, Rolf. They like each other, but there are clouds. Young Rolf is rooting for the Nazis to take over in Austria, and the Captain is, per Rolf., “Pretty Austrian.” But, as Rolf points out, “You Are Sixteen”, and he is all of seventeen, so he will teach her about the world.

In Maria’s bedroom. The housekeeper, Frau Schmidt, brings Maria material to make a new dress, at the Captain’s insistence. Schmidt informs Maria that the curtains will be replaced in her room, as well. And she warns Maria that the Captain does not permit music. She is alone in the room again when it starts to rain and thunder…and Liesl sneaks in from outside. Maria agrees to help Leisl conceal her indiscretion. The thunder rages, and the frightened kids make their way to Maria’s room one by one. She teaches them a song to sing, to allay their fears, “The Lonely Goatherd”. (Again, it’s use in the film is far better, a show the kids put on with puppets for their father and guests, that start to charm him back to lie again.)

About a month later, the Captain has returned with his guests. Elsa Schraeder is a handsome woman, cosmopolitan woman, and the Captain is clearly taken by her. The children are out, with Maria, and no one knows where they are or when they will be back. Elsa loves the mountains, the view. They talk, get to know each other, and wait for Max Detweiler to get off the phone. He returns to them. He’s producing a large music festival, and cannot find the musical acts he needs. He’s been phoning all over Europe on the Captain’s phone, drumming up acts. The Captain goers to look for his children. Max wryly makes Elsa aware that she’s rich., the Captain is rich, with everything so easy, “How Can Love Survive?” Rolf enters, looking for Leisl, but he also has a letter for Detweiler. He heils the Captain, who takes the letter and angrily kicks Rolf out. He hates the Nazis.

Maria and the children arrive, yodeling and having fun, and are surprised the Captain is there. He is angry, and demands they go clean up. And the clothes they are wearing…what are they?! Maria has made them from the drapes that were going to be tossed away from her room. The Captain does not have any interest, but Maria lectures him on his growing children, whom she knows far better now than he does. He plans to dismiss her, even as in the distance the children sing “The Sound of Music”, and it is, of course, beautiful. He cannot help himself, he joins in with his kids, and they see him in a way they have not for a long time. The kids are introduced to Elsa, as the Captain asks Maria to stay, Later, alone with Elsa, the rich woman asks Maria when she is going back to the Abbey, and Maria informs her it will be in September. Elsa appears worried.

There is a party at the house. Everyone is dressed up. In the large room, people debate the impending Nazi attack, and several of them clearly favor the Nazis. The kids join the party, and the eldest boy, Kurt, asks Maria ti show him a popular dance. She claims to not have danced in years. But the Captain is listening, steps in, and dances with Maria, in demonstration. Both the Captain and Maria are moved by the contact. Maria speaks to one of the daughters, Brigitta, who says that Elsa has avoided the party. Maria says Brigitta should speak well of the woman likely to soon be her mother. Brigitta points out that her father loves Maria, not Elsa. Then, the children perform a number for the guests, headed to bed. (“So Long, Farewell”) Max is stunned, a singing group that is also a family. Max insists they will perform in his festival, and that it’s important for Austria. But Maria has fled in fear, back to the Abbey.

The Mother Abbess speaks to Maria, who finally admits that she has fallen in love with the Captain. The Mother explains that the love of a man and woman is holy, too. She insists Maria return to the Trapp family. Maria can’t face it, but the Mother tells her to “Climb Every Mountain” until she finds her own truth, and her dreams come true.

ACT TWO: Max plays with the children. He can’t get them, to sing, however, without Maria, not even with their father. The Captain questions the children, trying to discover why Maria left. And he informs the children he is to wed Elsa. The children start to sing “My Favorite Things,” to feel better…and Maria enters and joins them. The Captain sees she has returned, and she tells him she will stay until he finds another governess. H protests that the children, that everyone missed her. Maria heads up to the children.

Elsa and Detweiler enter, discussing the size of the Captain’s estate, and Detweiler receives a call from Berlin. The Captain lets Elsa and Max know that if the Nazis invade, he will defy them. Max says he will sit tight and wait for them to go away. Elsa says that people are crazy, and “There’s No Way To Stop It”, so the best one can do is worry about one’s self. The Captain warns them that they will not survive what is coming with that view. Maria re-enters, and Elsa is dismayed to find that she’s returned. Maria asks if the children can have a holiday tomorrow, and she tells Elsa that the children have said she and the Captain are to be married. But now Elsa sees the Captain is a different light, and tells Maria the children are wrong. Elsa leaves.

Maria and the Captain recall the dance they shared. And he tells her he will do anything for her, if she’ll stay. She lets him know that all she wants is for the two of them to be “An Ordinary Couple”. Thy wed at the Abbey (“Processional”), as the nuns sing “Maria” jubilantly. She has found her truth.

Back at the Trapp villa, the children do not know what to do when Nazis show up[ and demand they fly the Nazi flag. Detweiler informs them that Von Trapp and his new wife are away on their honeymoon. In the mean time, Max makes plans for the family to appear at his music festival. Maria and the Captain return to discover Max’s plan, and the Captain refuses it. But Maria is thrilled that people have heard the children sing, and loved them. Max explains to Maria that the Captain must at least pretend to get along with the Nazis. Rolf arrives with a telegram for the Captain, and heils Franz as the man takes it upstairs. Leisl is appalled, but Rolf says only Captain Von Trapp has not fallen in line, and if he doesn’t, he’d best leave the country. Rolf departs, Leisl as well, upset. The Captain joins Maria – the telegram is a commission in the German Navy. He doesn’t know what to do. An Admiral from the Third Reich shows up to speak with the Captain. The Admiral is at the house with the Captain’s commission, and he is to report immediately. Maria points out that is impossible – they are all singing at the music festival. She shows the Admiral the program. The Captain plays along.

On stage at the concert. The Captain sings a hymn to his lost country, “Edelweiss”. Max introduces the entire family, and they sing “So Long, Farewell”…exiting one by one into a hidden, waiting car. They win the contest – but they have fled the country.

At the Abbey, night. The nuns hide the Trapp family as Nazis search for them. Rolf is with the Nazis. He spots Leisl…and announces that no one is out in the garden, where they’re hidden. The Nazis leave. The Captain thanks the Reverend Mother, and the family heads into the hills of Maria’s youth, on their way from Austria, as the Mother sings them on.

THE SONGS:

“Preludium”, “The Sound of Music”, “Maria”, “My Favorite Things”,”Do-Re-Mi”, “You Are Sixteen”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, “How Can Love Survive?”, “So Long, Farewell”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “No Way To Stop It”, “An Ordinary Couple”, “Processional”,“Edelweiss”

Hits include just about the entire score. Certainly “The Sound of Music”, “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Every Mountain”, and Hammerstein’s final lyric, “Edelweiss”

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to skip or ignore my opinions and rating.  However, if you do, don’t be surprised if the sound you’re hearing isn’t quite music…

Don’t be fooled by the film, which is quite a bit better written than the play (thanks to screenwriter extraordinaire Ernest Lehman). The musical on stage is just a good piece, not bad, but not exceptional. It’s true, nearly every song in the score has become engrained in our minds – but that is almost entirely thanks to the unbelievably successful film, one of the biggest hits in history.

By the way, here’s the actual Von Trappe Family Singers. This story is based on actual history, and is a real page in the story that was the horror of WW II as the Nazis expanded through Europe in their quest to conquer the world.

To the show. The play suffers from an excess of sweetness and light. I really dislike some of Hammerstein’s nature references, I think they’re too easy, too simplistic, and a way to avoid human conflict and thought. There’s way too much “nature” in the lyrics, it never stops. Snowflakes and dog bites and bee stings and ponies and geese flying in moonlight (I’ve never seen that happen, by the way) and Maria is as “flighty as a feather” and how do you keep a wave upon the sand (from people who have lived in a mountain range their whole life?). There’s a lot more, from the song “Edelweiss”, all about a flower, to silver white winters that melt into spring to Doe – a deer, to Liesl being “innocent as a rose” (do roses possess any consciousness?) to “my heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds…” Wow! I just don’t like nature enough to sit through this documentary about it. And I truly feel the lyrics for much of this show are second rate, and that’s generous.

As always, Hammerstein’s heart and soul is in the right place. But his lyrics are not. By their very nature and upbringing, musicals are a by-product of civilization, and they belong in cities. The operetta with dancing village folks had died decades before The Sound of Music was written, but you’d kind of never know that from this show. I think Hammerstein hurt this show, as he often did, with his overwhelming need to parade out nature in his lyrics.

More. I like children. I even have two of my own, though I’ve tried to sell them and have found no takers. (They’re 25 and 21 now, so it’s probably too late.) But spending a night watching seven cute kids sing and dance together, and pretend to be afraid of thunderstorms when most boys, at least, dig them? And they have lived in the mountains their whole lives, aren’t they accustomed to storms, yet? Or is the entire clan backwards? It’s a lot to ask an audience to buy into. Apparently their mother died not too long ago, given their ages, but she is scarcely referenced. That’s troubling.

I know that the basic tale is true. It’s the details, the character development bits buried in scenes like the ones I describe, that fail to convince.

Then there’s the music. It’s catchy, memorable, as Rodgers almost always is. It’s also often windy, overblown, too much to be believed coming from these characters. Though I do sort of like the song, “Climb Every Mountain” is just unbelievable, coming from the nice Mother of the Abbey. It would be too much coming from Alexander the Great to his troops about to go to battle. It’s three steps too far over the top. “Maria” is simply not credible. The ladies would be either deeply angry at Maria for violating their rules, or uncaring, as one is when one has given up. In which case, they would kick her out. In an Abbey, as Mother implies, rules are rules. The song is far too cute, and it renders the nuns into cartoons, exasperated cartoons, but cartoons nonetheless. It’s very clear that it’s all for a laugh, for entertainment value. But the musical is about Nazis and serious things, and cutesy-wootsey doesn’t suit the story well at all. Well, it works more-or-less when the kids do it, once or twice, as in Lonely Goatherd and, well, I guess, Do-Re-Mi, one of R & H’s most thoughtless and pointless numbers. But this show trades on a steady diet of cute, until it becomes diabetic.

The placement of a number of the numbers is occasionally poor, stacking solos and rendering some of the songs less effective, certainly, than the placement in the film. I would have hoped that in revivals, they would push the structure of the play closer to the film – it’s better. Sure, keep the songs the film didn’t use, as you’re not trying to recreate the film on stage. But we should be able to learn from improvements, and use them.

Does it sound like I dislike the musical? I don’t. But I find many of its elements disappointing and frustrating. It is not top-drawer work, as South Pacific and King & I were, for the most part. It’s second rate R & H, perhaps because Hammerstein was ill, and would pass away months after the opening. That said,. R & H did not write the book, and it is somewhat treacle as well. I appreciate the effort in Act II to squeeze in a lot of Nazi activity…but why wait for Act II? Act I is effectively spent developing the love story, and then, as if they’ve run out of love story, Act II gets to the Nazis. Cabaret (the show) did this far better. The Nazi threat is developing and ever present throughout. The love story, such as it is, is also developed, and then deteriorates, through the length of the play. It’s simply better written than Sound of Music.

And yet…and yet…the show can move an audience to tears. We do root for Maria, and then the Captain and his children. We do fear the growing Nazi threat, though it seems to spring up rather than grow. We will weep during “Edelweiss”, and not know that it’s about a flower, really.

And people love the songs and the story. Well, more than I do, apparently. I guess I saw the movie way too many times when I was young. I got to the point where I hoped that mountain they were climbing would fall on them and end the film forever. And still, “the Sound of Music” is heard through the hills, and R & H’s heirs collect massive royalties, so there you are.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

Some of the Latin music Rodgers wrote for the nuns is complex, and beautiful. But overall, this is an easy score to learn, teach and play. The songs are melodically and harmonically rather simple, the score easy to play.

By the way, there is nearly no ensemble singing in the show except for the Nuns and the family! I’, certain this was a conscious choice, and it lends the evening the feel of a chamber piece, very unusual for a musical. The only ensemble singing is the finale, a reprise of “Climb Every Mountain.” So as a Musical Director, you attention is on solos, duets, and small groupings that are used repeatedly, the Nuns and the family. These two groups must create a harmonic and audio tapestry that carries enough energy to sustain a musical famed for its music.

Maria – Soprano with a warm voice, accessible and some very nice top notes. The role has been played by two women with truly wonderful but different voices in Mary Martin (original Broadway) and Julie Andrews (film). Martin’s voice will be the one the theatrical orchestrations are written for, her’s is the range you’ll need to replicate in your casting. Plays some guitar if possible.

Von Trapp – Baritone, pleasant voice, effortless. Plays some guitar if possible.

Max – Baritone, comic, good energy.

Elsa – Alto, perhaps not as comfortable singing as is Maria. Pleasant, clear voice.

Mother Abbess – Soprano with great strength on top, and a mid-register that is full and surprising.

The Kids – All mezzos, they must all sing in the same register almost as one voice. Must sing well, they sing a lot.

Rolf – Young lyric baritone, nice firm upper register that can be relied on.

Franz – Spoken role

Frau Schmidt – Spoken role

Sister Berthe – Mezzo, must harmonize well.

Other Nuns – All ranges, must harmonize well and have beautiful pitch and strong, firm voices. All the nuns will need to be comfortable (or become so) with a little Latin.

Herr Zeller – Spoken role.

Admiral von Schreiber – Spoken role.

Ensemble – Not used much, if at all, to sing.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

There isn’t much dance in the show, though Maria and the kids do some.  Nuns just don’t dance in this show, it isn’t “Nunsense”, a show I really dislike.

A choreographer will focus on Maria’s numbers with the kids, and the small numbers shared by principle characters.  These would include “Maria” (staged rather than danced),”Do-Re-Mi”, “You Are Sixteen”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, “How Can Love Survive?”, “So Long, Farewell”, “No Way To Stop It”.  It is some work, but the dance is the last consideration in this show.  This is not a dance show, not by any means.  And what dance there will be should feel organic, natural to the moment, un-contrived, even un-staged.  Your choreographer must be able to do this sort of work.  Often, I think a good Director, comfortable with movement, is better off doing the movement for this kind of show, thus keeping everything cohesive.

CASTING CONCERNS:

Maria – 21-30 ish. Loves nature, kicking around her mountains, loves life. She is herself something of a force of nature, breathing life back into a man and a family. A well-developed sense of humor, and some self-deprecating irony. A sincere love of God, expressing it in numerous ways, which makes her acceptable and even loveable to the Mother. Must be lovely enough to win a rich, handsome, very eligible bachelor. Must be loveable enough to win over seven repressed children. Must sing extraordinarily well, music is in her soul and is, for her, an expression as well of life and God, it is the purest expression of who she is. Cast for voice, acting, age and look, and a little movement. Probably needs to play some guitar.

Von Trapp – 40-60, Handsome, military, strong-willed, an impressive man. He has shut down all the warmer aspects of his being, and it becomes Maria’s cause to reawaken them in spite of the man. Remember that he wasn’t just a military man, a Navy man, but a highly successful and respected one. And he’s quite wealthy. He must privately adore his children, and perhaps he regiments them so strictly in an effort to keep the safe, as he has lost their mother. Cast acting, look, then voice. Could play some guitar.

Max – A mature man, clever, self-indulgent, sophisticated, an entrepreneur. Tireless in his efforts professionally, he works almost as hard to remain non-political. He does not quite succeed, one senses deep down that he has a fine heart, loves the Von Trapps, and does not care at all for the Germans. The last manifests with small moments like the flag moment. Cast acting, the voice, some movement.

Elsa – 30-40, sophisticated, cultured, mature. A decent woman, very wealthy. We must see why a man could fall in love with her, or there will be no tension between her and Maria for the Captain. She should thus be attractive in looks and personality. Uncomfortable with children, but willing to try. In the end, a survivor unwilling to take too many risks. Cast acting, then voice, some movement.

Mother Abbess – 40-70, calm, patient, with a broad view of her powers and her purpose. A loving nature, admirable in nearly every way, and willing to take a great risk to do what is right, as she does at the end of the play. And she’ll need the most wonderful voice! Cast for voice, acting and look.

The Kids – Gretl (age 4-7); Marta (6-9); Brigitta (8-10); Kurt (8-12); Louisa (12-14); Friedrich (13-15); Leisl (15-18). They must look like they belong to the same family. They must all sing well. They must roughly look their ages. They must all move a bit. Beyond that, they should each have a unique personality. The boys should be, well, boys of a Navy man. Gretl should be adorable and fragile. Brigitta wise far beyond her years, who cannot help tell people the truth, and to stick her nose in their business – perhaps the most intelligent person ion the family. Liesl, a blossoming young woman becoming aware of impending adulthood and boys. It would be great if one or two of them played some guitar. All must sing very well, and have roughly the same vocal register. Cast for age and type, singing, then acting, then movement, then guitar where appropriate.

(An important note – there are almost always legal restrictions about how long a minor can rehearse, and how many performances they are allowed to do in a week. There will also likely be legal demands to provide an on-set teacher in the children are with you more than a certain number of hours a day, for rehearsals. These restrictions often result in the need to double-cast younger roles. As a producer, you will absolutely need to find out what local restrictions apply to the use of younger actors, and abide by the rules. And yes, this will drive up the costs of what is already a potentially rather expensive show. ALSO, this means you should try to cast as many of these roles with 18 and over actors as you can, to minimize the issue. So Friedrich, Liesl and Rolf could all be older.)

Rolf – 16-21, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan young man, attractive, who works very hard to appear rigid and impressive, his idea of adult behavior. Not bright enough to be a true ideologue, but he does truly care for Liesl, and this is revealed at the end of the show. Cast looks and age, voice, acting, some movement.

Franz – 30-60, a functionary in the Von Trapp house, dry, ironic, and a true Nazi at heart. Cold, a true ideologue, and a coward. Cast for acting and type only.

Frau Schmidt – 30-50, a functionary in the house. Flustered, overworked, but a good-hearted woman who tries to do what is right while keeping everyone happy. Cast for acting and type.

Sister Berthe – 30-60, professional, serious nun, somewhat humorless, willing to take on the hard and thankless jobs, and perhaps enjoys the authority that such jobs lend her. Must sing very well. Cast for voice, then acting and type.

Other Nuns – Ages 25-65, women dedicated to their life’s work, to the Church and God, and to some extent, each other. Must sing very well, harmonize very well. Cast for voices, some acting.

Herr Zeller – A young man who has found new power and authority as a Nazi, and revels in it far too much. Acting only.

Admiral von Schreiber – Age 40-60, distinguished and Germanic, providing a more inviting picture of military life than is deserved, a man others would follow.

Ensemble – Various Austrian neighbors and such for the party, really. Perhaps 12 or so? If they sing well, so much the better for the finale. Cast for types, then voice, then a little acting.

SETS:

Almost the entire show takes place on just a few rather grand sets. These include the Abbey, including the chapel (a set) and the Mother Abbess’ office. But most of the action takes place in the Von Trapp family home, and the vast majority of that, in the large and open two story living room, with a staircase descending from the bedrooms above, one of which will be Maria’s and it will need to be seen and used for the lighting scene. The only other sets are the mountaintop where Maria sings (and I don’t think you really need to do much but indicate this with a backdrop or tree that flies in and out), and the concert hall, which can essentially be your own bare stage.

How to do this show? I would have the house framework take up the back of the stage, entirely across it, to make the largest setting possible…but end its walls perhaps less than ½ way to the apron. I’d fly down in front of it the Abbey Chapel. So that is what we first see. Then, drop the drape and play the mountaintop in one, on your apron, basically. Then, up the drape and have the office of the Mother Abbess, dropped in front of the house, the chapel has been pulled up. Then, simply raise the office up in front of the audience if needed, to reveal the living room of the Von Trapp house. That takes care of the next three scenes, more or less. Light Maria’s bedroom and darken the rest of the stage, for that scene. Place all the “hallway in the Trapp villa”, “terrace in the Trapp villa” etc scenes in the Living room, and give it a terrace that looks out on the mountains, at one side.

For the concert hall set, drop a backdrop of some sort to get rid of the Trapp house, which we do not see again. Don’t try to fly the Trapp house with its staircase, etc, just restrict the action to the front half of the stage and hide that set behind a drop, or acoustic shell of some sort. Then, drop the garden at the abbey down and life the backdrop, for the garden at the Abbey, the final scene.

Using this approach, and assuming a proscenium stage with flies, the show should move along well.

But what if you do not have a proscenium stage, or flies? Well, I could suggest trying a smaller show, but I’ll try to be more helpful, though I honestly think that may be the correct answer. You’ll need a unit set, and sets that are suggestive rather than literal. A stain glass window for the Abbey, perhaps rolled on and off by actors. A tree for the mountain, also rolled on and off. Two comfortable chairs for the Abbess’ office. The entire stage for the Trapp living room, as open as possible. A bed for Maria’s bedroom, and drapes hung on a window frame, they are required. The bare stage for the concert hall, removing all the furniture. The Sound of Music can and has been done far smaller than it is written. I do believe, however, that approach might diminish the power of the show. It also might increase our focus on the characters and their actions, as there will not be much else to look at. And though the dialogue is fine and occasionally smart, and the songs are famous, I’m not overly convinced that this show will survive close scrutiny of the characters. If your approach is small, get great actors.

COSTUMES:

All period Austria as the Germans are marching in. Nuns habits haven’t changed much, and can easily be rented from a shop or built. Maria must have a truly poor, tatty dress at first. And she wears all her clothes out quickly.

And she’ll need a great wedding dress! White! Perhaps you can make a deal with a local wedding dress shop to use (and care for) a dress in exchange for publicity for them, in your program.

The Captain should be dressed handsomely, if informally about the house, a figure of a man.

The kids are at first plainly dressed, similar, regimented, and then become increasingly unique under Maria’s care. You’ll need to build the costumes made from drapes by Maria, for the kids and for her. They all need more party-oriented wear for the party.

Nazis wear Nazi uniforms and swastika armbands will be needed. These can almost always be rented.

I think you will be building some costumes, but a lot of this can be rented. I can’t emphasize too much the need for shoes, ties, costumes in general to be period correct, here. This was actual history.

PROPS:

Glasses and the like for the party. Crosses for the nuns. A guitar. Childhood books and toys from the period. Rolf will need letters to deliver, a pack to place them in, a bike. Perhaps one or moe Nazis could have hand guns. All in all, a very easy show.

LIGHTING:

There will be a psychological tendency to perhaps want to light the show in shadows, as the impending doom of the Nazi’s draws near. Don’t. This is a musical, and the musical numbers must shine. Even Rolf and Liesl singing “You Are Sixteen” should be blessed with magical moonlight, and look like a real moment that will pay off in moonlight again, later, as the Trapp family flee Austria and Rolf does the right thing and allows them their escape.

The Abbey should be gifted with shafts of sunlight pouring through stain glass windows. The Von Trapp house should be large, open, airy, and filled with sunlight from windows. And it is the light of the mountains in Austria.

A follow spot will be needed, hard and clear, for the concert scene.

Generally, most of your work will take place in design. Running this show is far simpler than most shows, there should not be a mountain of cues.

MAKE-UP:

Simple, unobtrusive. Elsa should be made-up to be beautiful, but clearly made-up. Thee really isn’t any specialty make-up called for.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, Maria, Captain Von Trapp, The 7 Kids

MY THOUGHTS:

The movie is far stronger than the play, and I always felt that the play could be moved structurally to what the film did. But you would need permission from the company issuing rights to make such changes…

This is easily one of the most famous and most beloved of all musicals, despite my carping. It will likely do well for you and your group in terms of audience and ticket sales, should you have the wherewithal to do it. It has lovely and memorable music. It is an important story, a worthy one. It has some true dramatic value that a director and actors might sick their teeth into.

BUT…both Maria and Von Trapp seem emotionally stilted to me, as they dance and then she runs away – something a 16 year-old might do. And in truth, well, she’s lived in an Abbey for a while. This lack of character sophistication might earn you a few unwanted laughs, I’m afraid. Get yourself some truly good actors that the audience can easily care about. And they’d better sing really well. The audience will be expecting to hear the sound of music – not the sound of bad singing.