with “The Sound of Music”

Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer singing to the von Trapp children.
Photo: Matthew Murphy

By Tim Walker

How DO you solve a problem like Maria? It’s a fair question, a timeless one, and it has been asked by generation after generation. 

With a never-ending appeal that spans several decades, the story and songs of “The Sound Of Music” are instantly recognizable by nearly everyone who hears them. Featuring unforgettable music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, along with a story by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, the enduringly successful musical is based on “The Trapp Family Singers,” a memoir by Maria Augusta Trapp herself. Now, a brand-new production of the musical is coming to the Schuster Center in Dayton for eight performances from Feb. 13 through the 18, as part of Premiere Health’s Broadway Series. The production stars Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria and Mike McLean as Captain Georg von Trapp.

“I’m actually on our tour bus right now,” Mike McLean, who plays Captain Georg von Trapp in the touring production, says recently when speaking by phone with the Dayton City Paper. “On a highway somewhere in Alabama. It’s a blast, it’s just really been great. We started way back in the first week of September, and we opened up in Seattle, Washington. Since then we’ve been in Vancouver, and a couple of other cities in Canada, then all the way down to Florida, and up and down the Eastern seaboard… just all over the place. We’ve been having a great time, and the show’s been getting great reviews and selling out. Standing ovations. We’re just thrilled.” 

“The Sound of Music” is perhaps best known from the 1965 film version starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film was an unprecedented success, winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director award for Robert Wise, and became the highest-grossing film ever released up to that time, a distinction it held for five years. The film and the Broadway musical, which won five Tony Awards, are based on the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers, and songs from the musical, such as “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Edelweiss” have since become popular standards. 

Set on the eve of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Austria in 1938, the musical tells the story of Maria Rainer, who takes a job as the governess to a large family while on leave from a convent. Maria has been asked to take the job by her superiors while she decides whether or not she is really meant to become a nun. She falls in love with the children, and eventually their widowed father, Captain Georg von Trapp. He has been ordered to accept a commission in the German Navy, but he strongly opposes Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, so he and Maria decide on a plan to flee his beloved Austria with the captain’s seven children.

“It’s my first time playing Captain von Trapp,” continues Mike McLean, “but it’s my third national tour. I’ve spent some time on the road, I’ve been all around the country, and it’s kind of a love affair for me. I’m glad to be back doing it. But playing Captain von Trapp is by far the best role I’ve ever had. The production in itself is the best production I’ve ever been a part of, but playing this role is just everything I could ever ask for.”

“The role itself has so much to offer for an actor,” McLean says. “Because the captain goes through this really big transition. You know, he starts off the show this very hurt, dark, distant individual who can’t be around his children because they remind him of his late wife. He can’t have any music in the house because that reminds him of his wife, and he just can’t be at home. And it isn’t until Maria shows up, and brings music back into the home, and ignites excitement in the children and all of a sudden he’s happy to see his kids again for the first time and he has to reawaken his love for his family. It’s really fun to play as an actor, and also the story itself is beautiful.”

The actor goes on to say that the Captain’s big moment of singing “Edelweiss” is, of course, one of his ‘favorite things’ about the production. But he also reserves special praise for his leading lady, Jill-Christine Wiley, whose performance, he says, carries the production.

“She runs a marathon every night,” McLean says, laughing. “I’m still sitting in my dressing room, and she’s already sung all the hits. Then I get to go out and reap the rewards from all her hard work.”

There’s no doubt that everyone in the production works hard every night to make sure each performance is special. And there’s no doubt that every seat will be spoken for at the Schuster Center during The Sound of Music’s upcoming February run in Dayton. Good seats are still available, however, and now is your chance to grab them before the last “So Long, Farewell” is sung.

The Sound of Music will be presented at The Schuster Center, 1 West Second St., Dayton, from Feb. 13 to Feb. 18, 2018. Show times are Tuesday through Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the box office, by visiting TicketCenterStage.com or by calling 937.228.3630 or 888.228.3630.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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