For quite a few people, “The Sound of Music” is the perfect musical. The Rodgers & Hammerstein creation, which premiered on Broadway in November 1959, had everything: romance and suspense, family and world conflicts, gorgeous scenery and cute kids, hope and sorrow. And perhaps the most memorable collection of songs – “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” – ever to turn up on one soundtrack. “The Sound of Music” earned a handful of Tony Awards, including best musical. The art also captured the essence of history; the von Trapp family had actually fled Nazi-threatened Austria in 1938, and the show was based on Maria von Trapp’s book, “The Trapp Family Singers.”The 1965 rebirth on celluloid was movie magic. “The Sound of Music,” directed by Robert Wise, took the Academy Award for best picture and Julie Andrews turned in an indelible performance as Maria, the would-be nun turned beloved governess and wife.Among those unconvinced that “The Sound of Music” takes top honors as the greatest of musicals is Marisa Post. Post believes that, in the ranking of top movie musicals at least, “Chicago,” which earned the 2002 best picture Oscar, surpassed “The Sound of Music,” bumping the von Trapps into second place.But Post is going to have a chance to reassess her thinking. She is directing Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music,” which opens at the Aspen District Theatre Wednesday, Nov. 3, and runs through Nov. 14. The production marks the first time in its 28-year history that ACT has repeated itself; the local theater group first staged “The Sound of Music” in 1981.
Post is a major fan of the movie version: “No matter how many times I watch it on TV, I’m always completely suckered in, watching it right to the end,” she said. But in her two decades on the stage or behind it, Post has never been involved with a production of “The Sound of Music,” and the only live version she has seen was long ago and a faint memory. As the commercials for Broadway extravaganzas put it, she is falling in love all over again.”Directing the play makes me realize the writing is so fresh and good. It stands up on its own,” she said. “It reiterates what a timeless story it is, and how happy I am to be telling it again.”Post says those like her, for whom the film version has become so ingrained, are in for a surprise. Through much of the film, the emphasis is on the upbeat: Maria coming into the von Trapp house and transforming the atmosphere – and the stern naval officer Captain von Trapp – with music and tenderness. The winds of war remain mostly still until the family’s daring backstage escape into the Austrian mountains.But Post says “the play is interesting because it’s more political than the movie. The coming invasion of Austria is very direct. You feel it coming. It’s not like you just sense it, like in the movie.” The relationship between the baroness and the captain also has a different dimension in the show: “The relationship has to break up in the show, over basic moral principles,” said Post. “He absolutely knows he can’t go along with the Third Reich, and she absolutely believes she can ride it out and be friends with everybody and have it be OK.”Much of the enduring appeal of the show can be attributed to the music in “The Sound of Music.” In the American Film Institute’s listing of the top 100 movie songs, announced last month, “The Sound of Music” placed three times: the title song at No. 10, “My Favorite Things” (No. 65), and “Do-Re-Mi” (No. 88). John Coltrane made an instrumental version of “My Favorite Things” into a signature song, and it has become a jazz standard.
“When we first cast the show, I started thinking, this is one of the few musicals where the music has become a mainstay,” said Post. “Kids learn these songs at school. So it’s real easy to work with. Kids have learned music as a result of ‘Do-Re-Mi.’ Every school choir does ‘Edelweiss.’ It’s great song after great song.”In directing the play, however, Post has come to appreciate more than just the soundtrack. “Even though the music is so great, it’s more like a play with music than other musicals. Because the story is so well-written,” she said. “There’s a story, and not just lines to move things forward. There are big acting scenes equal to any musical number in the play.”Post is also finding that “The Sound of Music” has aged well. “It’s a great time to be telling this story,” she said. “Because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world. This is a reminder to stick together, love each other, and stand up for what you believe in. And that change is OK.”Familiar faces and new talentRegular attendees of ACT productions will note a good bit of change in the onstage talent. Tim George, who plays Captain von Trapp, lived in Aspen years ago, but only returned to the valley just over a year ago. Nikki Boxer, who plays Maria, was a performer at the Santa Fe Opera before moving to the valley recently. The 52-member cast – including 14 children who split the roles of the von Trapp kids – is filled with new faces.
“It’s no statement on the actors who we all know and love here,” said Post. “They came out to audition and were fabulous. But sometimes the exact, great people you’re imagining just show up, and that’s what happened. So now we have a great integration of these new people and the old foundation.”Most of that old foundation is behind the scenes. There are familiar faces producing (Jody Hecht and Rita Hunter), designing the sets (Tom Ward), lighting (Lloyd Sobel) and costuming (Kathleen Albert).Also familiar to Aspen theatergoers is Post herself. Post was a natural ham from childhood. “I showed a propensity for entertaining the family by the time I was 6. So they took me to a lot of Broadway shows,” said Post, who grew up in Rockland County, just outside of New York City.The show that really hooked her was “Mame,” starring Angela Lansbury, which she saw when she was 10. “Coming home in the car, I told my parents that was what I was going to do – sing and dance,” she said. Right away, Post was spending much of her time onstage, taking classes and performing in community and school productions. By her teens, she was acting professionally in summer stock and regional theater. After studying at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Post went directly into a national tour of “Godspell.”In 1982, she came to Aspen to star as Sally Bowles in a production of “Cabaret” at the Columbine Dinner Playhouse. The dinner theater, in a downstairs space in the courthouse plaza, was short-lived, but the role had a long-lasting impact on Post: She married her leading man, Scott MacCracken. And though the two left Aspen for the New York theater world for two years, they returned in 1984 to make Aspen their permanent home.
In the 20 years since, Post has taken on most every position in the local theater community. She directed ACT productions of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Blithe Spirit” and “Shooting Stars,” and appeared in “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Oliver,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “West Side Story.” She has directed, acted and choreographed for Aspen Theatre in the Park, and served as their education director for several years. She is the regular choreographer for the Aspen High School musical, and for the past three years, has been a choreographer and dance and movement instructor for the Aspen Music Festival’s Aspen Opera Theater Center. She is currently working with the Carbondale-based Thunder River Theater Company to create a professional teenage acting company.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Six local artists will debut new works Friday as part of the Snowmass Art Walk, an initiative to connect the town’s existing public art with new installations this summer.