By Tim Smith
The DVR feature on today's flat screen televisions is remarkable in its simplicity, yet hard to understand, and yet somehow, it always surprises. Such was the case the other day when I was reviewing my 'list' of programs and I realized that it had captured PBS's Great Performances.
Greeting me was a new (actually filmed in 2015) version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's, “The Sound of Music.”
This seems to be the seasons of all things 'R&H', and historically, this was the final production the team created, as Mr. Hammerstein would pass away in August 1960, a mere nine months after the original production opened on Broadway, starring Mary Martin.
With their “King and I,” “Carousel” and “Oklahoma” having enjoyed recent/current runs on Broadway, with the latter production earning the Tony Award for best revival for the 2018-2019 season, I am pleased that the estate is working diligently to keep their work out in front of new audiences.
I have a tendency to watch these classics over and over, and one of the elements that jumped out at me watching “The Sound of Music” was just how contemporary the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse plays out.
Based on a true story of the rise of the Nazi regime and its impact on the citizens of Austria, the musical balances the tragic anschluss with the relationship between a postulant from the nearby abbey assigned to the home of a widowed father of seven children, a captain in the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
It's easy to forget the power of the stories that are told in musicals from R&H's library. Beginning in the early '40s and through the early '60s, their musical dramas dominated our professional stages.
Another factor that makes this a most compelling version of the Tony Award winning musical is that it was filmed inside the confines of a studio setting, not along the sprawling hills and valleys of the countryside. This impacted the singing dramatically, making it more natural and gentle, more intimate.
Look for it to return, and if you are so inclined, I believe you can purchase the DVD through your local PBS affiliate. For those with students of the art form, this is one of those versions that you must have in your home library.
This unexpected video gift is most timely, and I always love it when a plan comes together. I'm deep into the book about the lives and careers of Rodgers and Hammerstein, titled “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution” by Todd S. Purdum.
To date, it is a bit 'gossipy' for my general tastes, but I can forgo all of that anticipating his analysis of their collaboration that has given me so much pleasure over the last five decades.
Next month: I will offer reflections on the flight of Apollo 11, that presented man to the surface of the moon 50 years ago.
The hills on the moon did come alive, if only for a few hours on that July day.
I am hoping that you will enjoy one of the first installments that features thoughts from Charles Lindbergh. Mr. Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic from New York to Paris in his Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.
Lest I forget: I am still working to finish “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough. I enjoy these adventure/discovery stories, and what better month to get that 'mission' accomplished.
I am also looking forward to a new season of Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" over Netflix due this July.
The sounds of summer are loud and clear, and from on high, in our towns.
And, speaking of our town: If your travel plans take you near Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, please stop, shop and enjoy some time there. The citizens of this truly special community are hurting after tornado strength winds devastated many of the neighborhood trees. Long known for its beautifully lined streets, it will be a long road to recovery.
Welcoming you into the room, provoking conversation since '06.
See you, in the paper.
t A s