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‘The Sound of Music’ is full of sweet songs: 1959 review

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Mary Martin in The Sound of Music.

(Originally published by the Daily News on Nov. 17, 1959. This story was written by John Chapman.)

There is much that is admirable, stunning and exciting in “The Sound of Music,” which opened last evening – enough, I am sure, to give this musical play a big audience. But not quite enough to make me as satisfied as I wanted so much to be. I wanted to hear about how the Trapp Family Singers came to this country and started life anew, but the second-act curtain came down before they got around to this part of the story.

The music by Richard Rodgers and the lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 2d are splendid. The production, designed by Oliver Smith, is beautiful. The cast headed by Mary Martin, Theodore Bikel, Patricia Neway, Kurt Kasznar and Marion Marlowe, is incomparable. The direction, by Vincent J. Donehue, is in fine taste.

Enchanting Start

And there certainly is nothing wrong with the story as far as it goes. Taking the real-life story of Maria Augusta Trapp, bookwriters Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse have told how a postulant of abbey of Nonnberg, Agustria, comes to the home of Capt. George von Trapp to become governess for his seven motherless children.

The captain is a seagoing martinet who orders everybody around with a bosun’s whistle. The new governess is a girl who would rather say it with music. She teaches the children to sing and there they find new happiness. The manner in which Miss Martin takes over Capt. Bikel’s home is as enchanting a beginning as any musical ever had. Enchanting, too, is the way she takes over the martinet’s heart.

But now, in the midst of lilting sound and graceful lyric, reality must be given its due – for, after all, this is a real-life story. The captain has found a new wife and the children a new mother whom they love, and all should live happily ever after. But Hitler is on the move in Austria and the captain will not accept anschluss. He and his family make a melodramatic escape over a mountain into Switzerland.

Review of "The Sound of Music" with Mary Martin. 11/17/1959.New York Daily News

Review of “The Sound of Music” with Mary Martin. 11/17/1959.

Here the story ends, with hardly a hint that this little group of exiles found their way to this country and made themselves a new life by singing. A sequel to “The Sound of Music” might be even more satisfying.

Lovely Theatre

This show is, inconclusive as it may be, a lovely piece of theatre. Miss Martin is adorable and very skillful, too. Bikel gives a strong and interesting performance as the unbending von Trapp. Kasznar is genuine and solid as a small-time impresario who discovers the potentialities of the Trapp family as singers, and Miss Marlowe exhibits a large amount of well-mannered sex in the role of a rival for Bikel’s affections.

And six of seven children – William Snowden, Kathy Dunn, Joseph Stewart, Marilyn Rogers, Mary Susan Locke and Evanna Lien – are absolute dolls. The seventh, Lauri Peters, is a fascinating minx.

The songs? Go hear them sung, particularly when Miss Neway is singing or when Miss Martin is teaching the children the sound of music.

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