THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Shubert Theatre. Considering recent ugly developments in Austria, this musical isn't nearly as dated as it once seemed. If it's true, as cynics argue, that Rodgers and Hammerstein's story is so sweet it needs the Nazis to give it an edge, then Jšrg Haider definitely gives it more currency.
The Sound of Music works on many levels: as a love story that combines Maria's first romance with the baron's second chance, as a coming-of-age narrative for Liesl and her Nazi-leaning Rolf, and as a spun-sugar fantasy about a perfect family who sing their way to freedom and success. Warmly staged by Susan Schulman, this impressive touring production pictures the family's exodus perfectly, including glorious backdrops of Maria's beloved mountains, the captain's rococo country house, and a magnificent chapel for the gorgeously garbed wedding participants.
The cast climb every mountain. As the frosty baron, headliner Richard Chamberlain unbends nicely--here's a man who truly loves his country by leaving it--and Meg Tolin brings unforced innocence and immediacy to a very young Maria (well, she was 25 years younger than her husband). The von Trapp children are reliably irresistible, and the nuns' chorus simply heavenly. Rooting this confection in the period are supporting performances by Rachel De Benedet, strikingly stylish as the baron's would-be wife; Ben Sheaffer, incongruously innocent as Liesl's storm trooper boyfriend; Drew Eshelman, delightfully opportunistic as the lovable parasite Max; and Jeanne Lehman, whose mother abbess becomes something even better than the voice of God--the sound of Richard Rodgers.