Since its debut on stage in 1959 and its 1965 film premiere, the iconic musical production "The Sound of Music" has been a beloved favorite with theater and music fans.
With its lively score by Rodgers and Hammerstein and its engaging story of the Trapp Family singers, the show has become one of the most popular musicals in the last five decades.
Now, Windy City audiences will have another version of the hit musical to enjoy. Lyric Opera of Chicago opens its new production of "The Sound of Music" Friday at The Civic Opera House in Chicago. The musical, starring actor Billy Zane as Captain von Trapp and Jenn Gambatese as Maria, runs through May 25.. The show is part of Lyric Opera of Chicago's American Musical Theater Initiative.
Chicago native Zane, who has portrayed Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of "Chicago" and starred in the movie "Titanic," among other roles, said he's looking forward to stepping into the role of Captain von Trapp in this new production.
"It's thrilling and it qualifies as a pinch-me moment," said Zane, about portraying the "extraordinary character" of the Captain.
About making his Lyric Opera debut, Zane said "I have been blessed to play in a few of the finest theaters in the world, from the Royal Haymarket on London's West End to the Shubert on Broadway. The Lyric takes the cake! The scope, the history. the beauty. I am humbled, which as you now can imagine is no easy task," he said.
For Jenn Gambatese, bringing Maria to life on stage is also a great honor.
"And to be doing it here in Chicago is wonderful," Gambatese said. "I love Chicago."
Gambatese said the glorious Rodgers and Hammerstein score can't be beat. "The songs are classics for a reason. The melodies are rich and the songs are such a joy to sing," she said. The tunes, she added, resonate with many people.
Among the popular tunes in "The Sound of Music" are "My Favorite Things," "Edelweiss," "Climb Every Mountain," "Do Re Mi," and the title song.
Gambatese anticipates performing at the Lyric Opera will be "simultaneously thrilling and a little scary. It's such a hallowed hall."
The story of "The Sound of Music" as it relays a segment of the life of the Trapp family singers and the relationship between the Captain and governess-turned wife Maria, captures Zane's attention on many levels.
He said what he finds most interesting about the story is "Thematically, it's the national pride and character of von Trapp's Austrian position and emotionally, the dealing with the virtues and shortcomings of a slightly militant perspective on life and how it melds in the family fold."
He added it's also touching to see how the Captain is guided to a more sensitive space through his love for Maria.
One of Zane's favorite moments in the production, he said, is "When the Captain hears his children harmonize so beautifully and his world changes."
Zane commented that he enjoyed as much as he could of the recent live production of "The Sound of Music," starring Carrie Underwood, that aired on television.
"I actually had the curious opportunity of watching it in the bar at the Hyatt in Chicago," he said, adding it was "the closest place he could find a television" after he attended a ceremony to receive a "Man of the Year" honor from Men's Health Magazine. "It was muted," he said. So he caught the whole broadcast later on You Tube. He mentioned the bar had many televisions but securing one of them and turning the channel from a hockey broadcast probably didn't go over well with other patrons.
Zane said he's long been a fan of live television broadcasts, including the variety shows of decades past. "I was impressed with the choreography and the direction of 'The Sound of Music' live broadcast," he said.
Taking a cue from a favorite song in the production, Zane commented about some of "his favorite things."
"With respect to the wicked winter (Chicagoans) stomached, certainly not snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes! Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes never disappoint."
Actress/singer Gambatese calls "The Sound of Music" a "joyful and exuberant production and one that's so full of love and heart."
FYI: "The Sound of Music" will be performed Friday to May 25 at The Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Tickets start at $29. For tickets, call (312) 827-5600 or visit lyricopera.org/soundofmusic