Broadway version of 'The Sound of Music' stays true to the original

Playing at the NMACC in Mumbai, it gives the original story a fresh coat

68-Stills-from-the-musical-1 Chords of love: Stills from the musical.

Maria spinning on the Austrian grass fields, framed against the snow-capped Alps. Captain Von Trapp strumming ‘Edelweiss’ while his gaze strays to the governess. The marionette show of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ that the Von Trapp children perform for their father and his friends. These iconic scenes from the 1965 film The Sound of Music are seared into the mind of every millennial who grew up on it. It is no easy task to stay true to the original story while giving it a fresh coat and yet, three-time Tony award-winning director, Jack O’Brien, pulls it off in his eponymous Broadway musical, which debuted at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) on May 3 and is on till June 4.

If the performances were at the heart of the musical, they were ably aided by the stage craft, music, lighting and design.

The play―which has won five Tony awards, including for best musical― celebrates its 65th birthday in 2024. Having toured over 100 countries, it has been ranked among the highest grossing shows of all time. The story of the young, spirited governess Maria, and her growing affection for the Von Trapp family, continues to be a timeless cultural touchstone across the world. So, it was almost with a sense of trepidation that I went to experience the play at the NMACC. Would it crumble under the weight of my expectations? As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. It was pure joy to watch it in the sprawling 2,000-seater Grand Theatre, designed in the shape of lotus petals and enhanced reportedly by 8,400 crystals for a multidimensional experience.

We went for an evening show on a weekday, and it was full house. Watching the musical from the multi-level Grand Theatre was a riveting experience. The sets were majestic and realistic. The living room of the Von Trapp villa, for example―with its winding staircase, sofas and the golden chandelier―screamed wealth. But created with equal care to detail was the scenic backdrop of the Nonnberg Abbey garden in the final act, when the family flees the Nazis.

The cast was stellar, especially Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria―who has previously starred in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Ariel) and The Beauty and the Beast (Belle). Trevor Martin, known for his roles in Sweeney Todd as the titular character and as Beast in The Beauty and the Beast, nailed the dark and brooding Captain Von Trapp. The children were all adorable, especially five-year-old Gretl (Olive Ross-Kline) and you felt like going ‘awww’ every time she said something. Lauren Kidwell as the Mother Abbess was the cherry on the musical that completed your immersion in the world of The Sound of Music. And there was nothing like Wiley’s mellifluous voice that effortlessly wove together all the harmonies, right from the title song on the mountain top to the eternal favourites of ‘Do Re Mi’ and ‘Raindrops on Roses’. It called to something deep within yourself, as though illuminating hidden crannies of your own consciousness.


The effect was only amplified by the Grand Theatre’s surround sound technology and top-notch acoustic system. For example, in the final scene when the Nazis leave the abbey after a failed search, the key turning in the ignition, the engine purring to life and the car leaving the driveway all felt too real, and it was as though it just drove past your seat. And when the curtain came down, you felt like you had come out of a spell, and the real world came crashing in like an unwanted memory.

One cannot help but compare the play with Raell Padamsee’s Indian production of The Sound of Music directed by Advait Hazarat, with Dalip Tahil as Captain Von Trapp and Delna Mody as Maria. While it was a beautifully crafted show, it did not hold a candle to the Broadway production. It brings home once again what a difference the right infrastructure, resources and world-class systems can make. If the performances were at the heart of the musical, then they were ably aided by the stage craft, music, lighting and design. For the space of three hours, the Grand Theatre was a world of its own.

It must have been challenging to adapt the play for an Indian audience. “One of the most thrilling and satisfying assignments in my career was creating the production of The Sound of Music on its way to India,” said O’Brien. “Because the famous and beloved film did not follow the original intentions of the musical as written, it was like opening a King Tut’s tomb of wonderful ideas and plot twists that no one has seen since its inception.” The result is something that is classic and contemporary at the same time. And as the sensations slowly start to ebb away, the residue is a feeling of longing. For something inexplicable that you have lost and gained at the same time.