The halls of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts are alive with the “The Sound of Music,” which runs through July 31. The beloved musical will delight audiences as always with a few of “Our Favorite Things” such as the Tony, Grammy and Oscar award winning score by Rogers and Hammerstein. In the touring show, director Jack O’Brien has gone back to “The Sound of Music’s” classic 1959 stage roots, giving audiencesa fascinatingly complex look at the characters inspired by the true story of the VonTrapp Family Singers.
The halls of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts are alive with the “The Sound of Music,” which runs through July 31. The beloved musical will delight audiences as always with a few of “Our Favorite Things” such as the Tony, Grammy and Oscar award winning score by Rogers and Hammerstein. In the touring show, director Jack O’Brien has gone back to “The Sound of Music’s” classic 1959 stage roots, giving audiencesa fascinatingly complex look at the characters inspired by the true story of the VonTrapp Family Singers. His characters are people faced with difficult choices in dangerous times. O’Brien says, “This production is not your mother’s familiar ‘The Sound of Music.'” I feel by looking more closely at this remarkable work, it reveals itself as deeper, richer and more powerful than ever before.” O’Brien’s “The Sound of Music,” “Do-Ri-Mi’s” on a fresh and lively path with a cast of youthful players led by Kirstin Anderson as Maria. Rather than going for big name stars, O’Brien chose actors who subliminally react to the story. It is their interconnection that makes the musical flow. When reading over “The Sound of Music” book, O’Brien says “Something caught my eye: Maria is probably, as a postulant, no more than six or seven years older than Liesl! She may be many things, country lass, a climber of trees, a young renegade, but she is clearly not an established star! How interesting!”He continues, “In through the audition door walked Kirstin Anderson. She opened her mouth, she sang, and tears welled up in my eyes. If ever there were an enchanting young woman standing on the brink of discovery – this was it. Please, as I do, welcome her.” Nor is Kirstin the only potential star in the outstanding cast performing at Segerstrom Hall. Straight from her off-Broadway run as a featured soloist in “Invisible Thread,” where she earned nightly standing ovations, Melody Betts, takes center stage as Mother Abbey. Betts, too, is unlike her counterparts in the featured role. When asked if the famous film inspired her in the role of Mother Abbey, Betts replied “I adore everything about the movie but I couldn’t use it to influence my performance because the woman who plays the part in the movie and me, well, we’re two entirely different human beings. There’s a large gap between us when it comes to age, perspective, everything so I had to come from a fresh place. My mother’s younger, closer in age to Maria, so she relates more easily to choices Maria makes. Oh, and sometimes, my Mother Abbey is a little spicier.” Betts is an accomplished actress, singer and songwriter who recently relocated to New York. Dispute a master’s degree in acting and five years of professional and regional theater experience, Betts hesitated to audition for “The Sound of Music.” Betts was unaware the part was available but encouraged by her New York manager, she tried out. “I wasn’t sure what they were looking for or if they would hire me because the show’s cast is traditionally white, and I’m a woman of color,” she said. “I wasn’t that confident. However, Audra McDonald was sensational as Mother Abbey in the NBC Live special and she broke the ground that helped me add Mother Abbey to my resume. I’m so glad this happened because I’m working with the likes of Jack O’Brien (director) and Andy Einhorn (music supervisor) who have helped me improve as an actress and as a singer.” Betts explains that her “The Sound of Music,” despite being an iconic musical known the world over is fresh and lively because, in her words, “It starts with Jack O’Brien, his concept for this piece is to make it more human that past productions. It’s a classic so others tend to approach it from the same angle as always. For example, Maria’s connections to the church and her relationship with the captain stand out while everything else fades into the background. In Jack’s vision every relationship matters, every character is important. This makes the show more relatable to more people.” The Mother Abbey, as Betts describes her, is essential to the plot because she moves it along. She says, “I consider the Mother Abbey to be like three pillars that hold the story together, she starts us off, she sets the stage and she’s the guide that moves us through the entire piece – she also helps Maria make life-changing choices.” According to Betts, she and her character have some characteristics in common, “Mother is the woman in charge and I like that! She runs to Mother Abbey and tries to bring her own life experiences to it as we, actors, do in a role. She is stern but does her job with compassion, understanding and love, while remaining direct and honest. I kind of wish I was more direct, balancing honestly and truthfulness with acceptance of what is, as she does. She’s no nonsense as am I, but we both feel compassion for others.” There are many things that Betts likes about “The Sound of Music” and her part in it. Among her “favorite things” are interacting with all the ladies that are the Nuns. She says “They’re so wonderful onstage and off. And I love singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” nightly. It’s a challenge for me and it’s never the same.” She continues. “What I like best about the story is that it is timeless. We relate to it today, just as audiences related to the Von Trapp’s story years ago and will still relate years from now. It sends a message of hope when Maria and the family escape. She finds her happy place. Audiences realize that good can overcome evil in the world.” Betts, in her role as Mother Abbey, delivers a powerful “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in a pure, commanding soprano. However, she says “My favorite song is “The Sound of Music.” The lyrics are so expressive, if you really listen, they paint such beautiful pictures and I love it.” “The Sound of Music” is a family friendly delight. And as Betts says that “the show will leave people of all ages with the message to live their best life possible. We can all use a little bit of that.” “The Sound of Music” is being performed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts thorough July 31. For tickets and information 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily: The Box Office (600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626); Phone: 714-556-2787. Or online at SCFTA.org.