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Sound of Music at Artpark

Artpark mark its 40th anniversary with "The Sound of Music," which turns 40 this year, too.

It’s been over 50 years since 46-year-old Mary Martin captivated Broadway as a teenaged convent girl named Maria, assuring the world that hills were alive with the sound of music. Before that historic November evening in 1959 was over, venerable Martin had expounded upon the virtues of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, tamed a captain with seven children, kicked the habit, and rescued the entire crew from the Nazis.

She had also launched one the most successful musicals of all time, a journey that would culminate with one of the highest grossing and most beloved films ever, starring another adored Broadway star, 29-year-old Julie Andrews. If Martin lost the film role, she could console herself with having won a Tony Award, besting Ethel Merman for her signature performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy. Merman’s reaction? “How did you expect me to beat out a nun?”

The musical would be the last in the Rodgers and Hammerstein cannon, a roster of gorgeous landmark shows that includes Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I.

In later years, after Rodgers and Hammerstein were conveniently dead, Martin remembered that she, personally, had recommended Andrews for the film role. I once asked Andrews about the truthfulness of that claim, and she enigmatically responded, “You know, I never met Mary Martin…”

The popularity of The Sound of Music endures. The film can still fill large movie houses for sing-along screenings from New Zealand to the Hollywood Bowl, at which audience members dress like the characters and sing along with the soundtrack. Sing out, Louise (and sing out, Liesl, too)!

With all that history and happiness in the mix, is it any wonder that Artpark has elected to go back to the very beginning and celebrate its own 40th anniversary with (what else?) The Sound of Music, the very show that began a tradition of producing Broadway musicals on the Artpark stage back in 1977.

The production has been directed by Randy Kramer of MusicalFare, and choreographed by Lynne Kurziel Formato now of Elon University in North Carolina, with musical direction by Jason Bravo. Emilie Renier, who played Cinderella (another Great Julie Andrews role) at Artpark last summer returns to play Maria. Paul Todaro will play Captain Von Trapp.

You can dress up, if you must, but you are kindly asked not to sing along.

The production continues through July 19. See On the Boards for details.