Northeast Pennsylvania will be alive with “The Sound of Music” next week.
A new touring production of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical comes to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, for shows Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
The story follows Maria as she takes a job as a governess to a large Austrian family while contemplating whether she wants to become a nun. She falls in love with the seven children and, eventually, their widowed father, Captain von Trapp, as the family struggles with Nazi Germany’s impending hold over Austria.
“What’s different with ‘Sound of Music’ on stage is that you kind of get more of the story,” said actress Keslie Ward, who plays the eldest von Trapp child, Liesl. “I feel like there is something about seeing live theater than watching the movies. Everyone loves Julie Andrews, but you get to know these characters more, and it’s relatable to all ages. Seeing it live is such a different experience.”
Many of Oscar Hammerstein II’s songs from the 1965 film version appear in the stage show, such as “My Favorite Things,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “Do-Re-Mi” and, of course, “The Sound of Music.”
“I love my scenes with the actor who plays Rolf, Chad P. Campbell, and I also adore the numbers with all of the kids,” Ward said. “Particularly, ‘So Long, Farewell.’ It’s always so fun being on stage with all of the kids.”
Although many people have seen the film starring Andrews or a different iteration of the stage show, Ward encouraged people to attend this production because of the cast and company, calling it “an experience within itself.” She explained that she, and many of the other actors, found their own ways to interpret their roles in new and unique ways, while staying true to the characters at the same time.
“When you’re doing a piece so iconic, sometimes there can be a bit of pressure to exceed those expectations,” Ward said. “I think for me, as long as I read the script and stay true to the lines, the words and the lyrics, it works out. I try to incorporate myself into Liesl, to make it my own, and I feel like I can say that for Maria and Captain. They are not cookie cutter versions of the movies.”
Although Ward is a few years older than her character, the rest of the children in the show range in age from 6 to 12. For many of the kids, this production also is their first national tour. But the strong themes of family and music within the show reflect onto the cast during their travels, allowing them to feel comfortable with one another, much like a family would, Ward said.
“I think (the show) touches all generations,” she added. “It’s a fun thing to bond over. All generations, in a way, have grown up with the ‘Sound of Music.’ … I think the biggest theme is obviously music. Music definitely brings the von Trapps together. It helps the captain; it essentially helps the family escape from the concert (near the end of the show). … There are also themes of family and doing what’s right and then the political overtones, which are very relatable to what is happening nowadays. I think this musical has come at a good time. It’s a good escape from what is happening around us lately.”
The musical experienced waves of popularity over the years, beginning with the original Broadway production in 1959 and followed by the 1965 film, which won five Academy Awards. It surged in popularity again when NBC aired a liv eversion in 2013, the first live television production of a musical in more 50 years. More than 44 million people watched that telecast.
“I think the best part for me is traveling to all of these different cities,” Ward said. “We go to larger cities that are used to these grand productions and Broadway tours. But sometimes we go to theaters and this is the only (musical) they’ll get in the year, and they enjoy it so much. … Watching ‘The Sound of Music’ is kind of like a rite of passage.”
If you go
What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets range from $45 to $65, plus fees, and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at kirbycenter.org.