Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Captains and Marias Galore!

Broadway star Jenn Gambatese and Hollywood hunk Billy Zane are anchoring Lyric's critically acclaimed production of The Sound of Music as Maria and Captain von Trapp. However, they are just the latest in a long line of talented actors to fill these iconic roles. Here are a few of the other famous (and unexpected!) actors who have taken on the challenge.

Broadway star Jenn Gambatese and Hollywood hunk Billy Zane are anchoring Lyric's critically acclaimed production of The Sound of Music as Maria and Captain von Trapp. However, they are just the latest in a long line of talented actors to fill these iconic roles. Everyone knows about Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel (who created the roles on Broadway), Julie Andrew and Christopher Plummer (who starred in the film), and Carrie Underwood, and Stephen Moyer (who were the headliners in NBC's recent live broadcast). But here are a few of the other famous (and unexpected!) actors who have taken on The Sound of Music on Broadway, for recordings, and even in high school musicals.

Florence Henderson - This future Brady Bunch star was Maria in the national touring production of The Sound of Music  in 1961-1962. Here she is performing the title song at the 1971 Tony Awards:

 

And in this interview, she talks about her experience with the touring company and how she idolized Mary Martin:

 

Shirley Jones - Not just another TV mom, Shirley Jones is a Rodgers and Hammerstein stalwart, having starred in the screen adaptations of both Oklahoma! and Carousel. She took on Maria in 1966 for the Westbury Music Fair. Here she is singing the title song from The Bell Telephone Hour series:

 

Laura Benanti and Richard Chamberlain - You might have seen her as Elsa Schraeder in NBC's recent live production, but Tony winner Laura Benanti already had a long history with the musical. She was the understudy for Rebecca Luker's Maria in the original cast of the 1998 Broadway revival. She would take over the role at age 19 with legendary actor Richard Chamberlain as Captain von Trapp, who was 65 going on 66 at the time.

Mare Winningham and Kevin Spacey - She played Maria to Kevin Spacey's Captain von Trapp in a production at Chatsworth High School in California's San Fernando Valley during Spacey's senior year (1976-77). Here the two of them are in the production, and Spacey recently mentioned the role during an interview on Sunday Morning on CBS.

Petula Clark - Best known as the voice of swinging London with such hits as "Downtown" and "I Know a Place," Petula Clark starred in the 1981 West End revival. Here she is singing "Do Re Mi" with the von Trapp children during a rehearsal:

 

Debby Boone - This Grammy winner lit up the stage (and our lives!) as Maria in Lincoln Center's 30th anniversary revival of the show in 1990.

Frederica von Stade - She took on Maria for a recorded version released by Telarc in 1987 with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. And playing the Mother Abbess? Eileen Farrell!

Photo credits

  • Billy Zane and Jenn Gambatese in Lyric's production of The Sound of Music (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Debby Boone in The Sound of Music (credit Carol Rosegg / Martha Swope Associates)
  • Richard Chamberlain and Laura Benanti in The Sound of Music (credit Sara Krulwich / New York Times)
  • Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham in The Sound of Music (courtesy KevinSpacey.com)

(Lyric Opera of Chicago does not own copyrights to any of the above videos.) 

A Few “Sound” Spirits

Raise a glass to the most beloved musical of all time! These recipes will help you channel your favorite characters from The Sound of Music—and there's even a kid-friendly mocktail so the whole family can get into the spirit.

Raise a glass to the most beloved musical of all time! These recipes will help you channel your favorite characters from The Sound of Music—and there's even a kid-friendly mocktail so the whole family can get into the spirit.

Holy Hot Toddy 

Drinking is probably frowned upon at the abbey, but you just know the Mother Abbess likes to spend the occasional evening sipping a nice hot toddy while singing "My Favorite Things."

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 ounce bourbon
  • 1/2 cup already-brewed chamomile tea
  • 1 slice Meyer lemon
  • dash lavender bitters

Add the honey and bourbon to a heat-proof snifter or mug. Top with the tea, squeeze the lemon, and drop it in. Add the lavender bitters and stir until the honey is melted. (Recipe courtesy TheKitchn.com)

Maria's Crisp Apple Strudel Martini 

Sometimes it's just too hard to whip up a batch of pastries after a long day of teaching children to sing. But no self-respecting governess is going to let that stop her from enjoying a crisp apple strudel.

  • 1 ounce apple schnapps
  • 1/2 ounce dark crème de cacao liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce white crème de cacao liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce cinnamon schnapps
  • 1ounce pressed apple juice
  • 3/4 ounce heavy cream

Shake the first five ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass. Carefully float the heavy cream by pouring over the back of a spoon. (Recipe courtesy DiffordsGuide.com)

The Captain's Austrian Delight 

The first rule of the von Trapp house is discipline…and the second rule is to celebrate Austria in as many ways as possible. Captain von Trapp likes to enjoy the classic Austrian beer Stiegl with some extra ingredients when he's entertaining.

  • 3/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 tbsp vanilla liqueur
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chambord raspberry liqueur 
  • 3/4 cup Stiegl beer
  • raspberries

Pour grapefruit juice, vanilla liqueur, and Chambord into a beer flute. Top with beer. Float raspberries on top. (Recipe courtesy Chatelaine.com)

Liesl's First Champagne 

Even Captain von Trapp couldn't disapprove of this faux-champagne mocktail that's perfect for all of the von Trapp children.

  • 2 ounces ginger ale, chilled
  • 2 ounces white grape juice, chilled
  • 2 ounces pineapple or orange juice, chilled

Combine ginger ale and juices in a champagne glass. Garnish with frozen grapes and a curly straw. (Recipe courtesy Parenting.com)

"No Way to Stop It" Negroni 

Actor Edward Hibbert's favorite cocktail is the negroni. He plays impresario Max Detweiler to the hilt in Lyric's production of The Sound of Music, and this drink is a lot like Max. It's an acquired taste, but you can't hate it—it's much too lovable.

  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part sweet vermouth

    Stir with ice; rim a chilled rocks glass with orange, add ice, and pour the chilled mix. Flame the orange garnish and add to the glass. (Recipe courtesy ColdGlass.com)

    Elsa's Broken Heart 

    Sure, the Captain might have thrown her over for Maria (and because she was a little too willing to compromise her Austrian values). But at least Elsa can nurse her broken heart with this sweet and vibrant concoction.  

    • 1 ounce vodka
    • 1 ounce Chambord
    • 2 ounces fresh orange juice
    • 1 splash of grenadine
    • Fresh strawberry to garnish

    Place all of the ingredients, except for the strawberry, into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Vigorously shake the mixture for 35 seconds and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish the drink with strawberry and serve immediately. (Recipe courtesy SheKnows.com)

    Edelweiss 

    This cocktail will always be happy to meet you at the end of a day or even during a lazy Saturday afternoon. It's clean and bright, with notes of elderflower and citrus.

    • 1 ounce St. Germain
    • 1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc 
    • 1/2 ounce gin

    Pour all ingredients over ice in a cocktail glass. Squeeze in two lemon wedges. Fill with soda water, garnish with lemon wedge or peel. (Recipe courtesy Janelle Mead from Pitch.com)

    Photo credit:

    • Scenes from Lyric Opera of Chicago's new production of The Sound of Music (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

     

    Have you heard? THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a hit!

    The reviews are in…and they are spectacular! Critics are raving about Lyric's new production of  The Sound of Music. Here's a sampling of what they are saying about the fantastic cast, lavish sets, and gorgeous music.

    The reviews are in…and they are spectacular! Critics are raving about Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music. Here's a sampling of what they are saying:

    The larger-than-life production

    "The Lyric Opera of Chicago finds a sweet Alpine spot with director Marc Bruni's admirably lively new production of 'The Sound of Music,' a lavish yet accessible and family-oriented affair that features…gorgeous picture-book design from Michael Yeargan…" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

    "Lyric’s extraordinary production, elegantly directed by Marc Bruni, takes all the great qualities of the show to present a grand scale, stunning production the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time." - Betty Mohr, Le Bon Travel and Culture 

    The Sound of Music "make[s] full use of the Civic Opera House's grand stage, from towering tableaus of the abbey to the irresistible moment when all seven of the von Trapp children ride onstage on matching but custom-sized bicycles—talk about commitment to a production aesthetic." - Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

    "Lyric Opera of Chicago's 'The Sound of Music' is every bit the grand production you'd expect from one of the country's leading opera companies." - Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald

    The beloved story

    "It's remarkable how such a well-known story can still generate chuckles and gasps, even upon the umpteenth viewing" - Elizabeth Diffin, Chicago Parent 

    The fantastic cast

    "I can't recall a revival so perfectly cast." - Roy Leonard, Chicago Now

    "…pert-yet-powerful [Jenn] Gambatese…makes this role her own. She has a broad smile that matches her captivating performance that leaves the heart warmed and the spirited lifted with her every song note." - Phil Potempa, Northwest Indiana Times

    "…tying it together, providing that intangible element allowing this 'Music' to really sing, is Gambatese’s brilliant portrayal of Maria." - Barry Reszel, Make It Better

    "Billy Zane…has just the right tone for the stern Captain whose militaristic demeanor melts away when he realizes that Maria has brought back music into his life" - Roy Leonard, Chicago Now

    "…the seven von Trapp children—pros beyond their years—are the production's greatest delight…" - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader

    "Beautifully majestic…Christine Brewer as the Mother Abbess. Her operatic 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' will bring tears to your eyes." - Dean Richards, WGN-TV

    Elizabeth Futral "moved with the studied grace of one who is accustomed to having all eyes on her in the room.…This soprano is also a bitingly clever actor, one who knows how to fling a casual aside to the back of the house." - Nancy Malitz, Chicago on the Aisle

    Edward Hibbert "is superb as character man/comic relief/realist/impresario Max Detweiler, showing he is a true pro in every sense of the word." - Paul W. Thompson, Broadway World

    "Betsy Farrar is a lovely, believable Liesl … 'Sixteen Going on Seventeen' [is] beautifully sung and danced with a charming Zach Sorrow as Rolf, thankfully avoiding the angry young man syndrome found in most portrayals" - Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review

    The beautiful music

    "…Richard Rodgers himself couldn't imagine a more ideal way of hearing his score…" - Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago

    "The Lyric Orchestra, under the masterful conductor Rob Fisher, does justice to Richard Rodgers fabulous score." - Tom Williams, Chicago Critic

    "…probably the best chorus of Nonnberg nuns the world has ever heard" - Paul W. Thompson, Broadway World

    Don't miss it!

    "The sound of perfection...best stage show we've had in Chicago in years." - Dean Richards, WGN-TV

    "In the Lyric Opera’s capable hands, The Sound of Music has retained its appeal for audiences of all ages. The hills are alive, indeed." - Elizabeth Diffin, Chicago Parent 

    "…fans of the film and stage show—especially those introducing their children to it—will find it faithful, beautiful, and bigger than they're ever likely to see it again." - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader

    "Who knew that the Lyric would do more than just revive the musical but give it the definitive production that the stage show has always deserved." - Michael J. Roberts, Showbiz Chicago

     "This production is absolutely wonderful." - Andrew Patner, WFMT

    Photo credit: 

    • Maria and the von Trapp children perform "The Lonely Goatherd" in The Sound of Music. Top row: Isabelle Roberts, Julia Schweizer, Brady Tutton. Middle row: KyLee Hennes, Jenn Gambatese, Nicole Scimeca. Bottom: Michael Harp. (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

     

    Chorus Master Michael Black preps nuns and kids for THE SOUND OF MUSIC

    Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black has been preparing the chorus of nuns and the von Trapp children (14 total, including main cast and understudies!) for the upcoming production of The Sound of Music—no easy feat! He talks about the power of an opera chorus, his favorite parts of the show, and when he met Joakim Noah during rehearsal. 

    Lyric's Chorus Master Michael Black has been preparing the chorus of nuns and the von Trapp children (14 total, including main cast and understudies!) for the upcoming production of The Sound of Music—no easy feat!

    As Lyric's chorus master since 2013 (after filling in as interim chorus master during the 2011/12 season), Black comes into The Sound of Music with a wealth of experience in the operatic world from his work with Opera Australia. He's a long-time admirer of Rodgers and Hammerstein's beloved musical. "This is my first time working on The Sound of Music, although I must have watched the movie at least a dozen times whilst growing up and am very familiar with the original Broadway cast recording, so it almost feels as though I know it as well as La Traviata or Madama Butterfly!" he says. "There's not a note of it that was unfamiliar to me when it came to preparing the music for this production."

    The power of an opera chorus

    Black approaches the preparations for this beloved Broadway musical with the same focus and discipline he brings to every mainstage opera. "With The Sound of Music, the chorus music is exclusively the nuns singing and therefore it has to be clean, precise, blended; all things you would expect of an opera chorus," he elaborates. "And the wonderful thing about the musicals here at Lyric is that we always offer 12 places in the chorus of the musical to members of the Regular Chorus who come to audition to be part of the production. So the sound you get is going to be the same wonderful sound you get when you come to hear one of the operas in the season."

    Sound of Music's operatic connection

    The original Broadway production of The Sound of Music also has a curious operatic connection, one that Black was quick to relay to the chorus for this production. "More experienced Lyric subscribers and opera lovers may remember the wonderful Tatiana Troyanos," he continues. "I love the fact that she began her professional stage career as a nun in the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music In our first ensemble music rehearsal, I spoke about this to the nuns to highlight the fact that the caliber of our work has to be this good."

    Becoming a family

    In addition to his work with the nuns, he reports that "working with the von Trapp children has been an absolute delight." Black was able to sit in on the audition process, so he met the actors three or four times before they were officially cast and got to know their individual personalities. "As you would expect," he adds, "each one of them is an amazingly talented individual, so to see them take all this individuality and then become an onstage family in a short space of time has been nothing short of miraculous."

    An unexpected visitor

    One of the highlights of the rehearsal process was in the second week, when Chicago Bulls star center Joakim Noah was in the building for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot. His changing room was next door to where Black and conductor Rob Fisher were just about to start a rehearsal von Trapp children and understudies.

    Black quips, "I'm not entirely sure who was more excited meeting Joakim Noah, the kids or myself. I know I was certainly the first person in the rehearsal room to pull out their iPhone to ask to have a picture taken with him! Since moving to Chicago, I've seen three Bulls games and Joakim and Carlos Boozer are my favorites and so when Joakim walked into the room, it was unbelievable."

    The children were able to perform "Do Re Mi" for Noah, and the professional athlete was even able to connect their two seemingly different worlds: "He listened to them sing and then spoke to them of the importance of teamwork, having a good coach and then being able to listen to the coach and then performing as a team, all things in common with both sport and opera or stage work."

    His favorite things

    When asked about his favorite part of the show, Black confesses to being "an old sentimental sucker. I always mist up when Captain von Trapp and Maria realize they're in love and in this production it's a very beautiful moment with Billy and Jenn." Unable to choose just one moment, he also notes that "Christine Brewer will bring the house down with 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain' and I'm getting goose bumps right now thinking about the reprise right at the end of the opera with the entire ensemble singing with her."

    Finally, he can't help but put in a bid for the youngest von Trapp: "Little Gretl , as you would expect, steals every scene she's in."

    Photo credits:

    • Michael Black (credit Kurt Sneddon)
    • Nuns in rehearsal (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
    • Joakim Noah visits Lyric Opera (credit Carrie Krol / Lyric Opera of Chicago)
    • Nicole Scimeca (Gretl) in The Sound of Music (credit Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)

     

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