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Richard Chamberlain
Richard Chamberlain

The Sound of a Washed-up Career

Quick, which film is the highest-grossing movie musical of all time: Grease? The Wizard of Oz? West Side Story? Can't Stop the Music with Bruce Jenner and the Village People? Nope, it's 1965's The Sound of Music, with its memorable image of a virginal, short-haired Julie Andrews spinning among the rolling green hills.

Actually, the story of the widowed naval officer, his seven precocious children and the failed nun/singing nanny (no, not Fran Drescher, thank god) was first presented on the Broadway stage six years before the movie's release. Based on the real singing von Trapp family, their real governess and their very real flight from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, the musical is arguably Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest and most lasting hit, in a catalog chock-full of them. Who doesn't know the words to "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Do-Re-Mi" and "Edelweiss"?

This is the version of The Sound of Music that comes to Houston as the first national tour of the Broadway revival (a 1998 Tony nominee). And of course, it features the requisite B-list celebrity whose career has seen better days -- in this case Richard Chamberlain, TV's King of the Miniseries and the former Dr. Kildare, in the role of Captain George von Trapp. Meg Tolin plays the governess, Maria.

The show has always galvanized people. Either they enjoy the simple charm, chaste love story and super G-rated sheen, or they dismiss it as an overtly sentimental sham stuffed with enough corn to feed the entire nation of Pakistan. Chances are, unless Chamberlain decides to play the Julie Andrews role, this production won't change anybody's mind.

So if simply hearing the opening phrase "The hills are aliveŠ" is the holiday treat you need (or you were a big fan of Shogun), this is a sound you'll want to hear. If not, then go climb every mountain.

The Sound of Music opens the Houston Broadway Series, which also includes Fame - The Musical,Art, Cabaret and Titanic.It runs Tuesday through Thursday, December 21 through 23, and Saturday, December 25, at 8 p.m.; Friday, December 24, at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, December 26, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. Call (713)629-3700 for tickets. $30.50-$55.


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