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On Theater: 'Sound of Music' still loud and clear

The hills are still alive with "The Sound of Music" nearly 60 years after this final collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II won five Tony awards and inspired the Oscar-winning movie version that followed in 1965.

It's one of the most popular family-oriented Broadway shows out there, and the current revival at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts aptly demonstrates, for the one or two playgoers unfamiliar with the show, why it's become such a beloved classic.

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Sure, there are the seven kids — the Von Trapp children, who rediscover music under the tutelage of a new governess — but there's also a deep adult conflict between their Austrian father and the Nazi forces who have just taken over their country, this being 1938. The horrors of World War II are still to come.

At the Segerstrom Center, this sparkling touring production under the direction of Jack O'Brien touches all the bases, including the four-bagger solo by the mother abbess (a flawless Melody Betts) of the signature number "Climb Every Mountain," which the Von Trapps literally do as the curtain falls.

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The centerpiece of the show, of course, is the would-be nun who becomes a governess and captures the hearts of the kids and, eventually, their father. This would be Kerstin Anderson, who brings the proper blend of sunshine and maturity to the role so identified with Mary Martin (stage) and Julie Andrews (film). Anderson amplifies all the facets of her conflicted character and offers a beautiful singing voice in the bargain.

As the rigid but loving captain, Ben Davis presents a staunch, unbending figure who turns downright juvenile when he falls in love with Anderson's Maria. Their "Something Good" duet as they discover each other is a highlight of the show.

Not exactly comic relief, but easing the tension by adding a lighter touch are the fine performances of Merwin Foard as the showman and house guest Max and Teri Hansen as the wealthy Elsa, who futilely pursues the captain. Their number, "No Way to Stop It," rings with intelligence and charm.

The children, however, take a huge role in the show, beginning with Paige Silvester as the eldest, Liesl, 16 going on womanhood, whose initial conversion to Maria's camp is nicely played. Dan Tracy, as the rough youth Rolf who pursued her, is effective but comes off a bit long in the tooth for the role.

Sterling support is offered, particularly by Darren Matthias and Donna Garner as the Von Trapps' butler and housekeeper. Brent Schindele counters the festive atmosphere as a nasty Nazi.

Few musicals possess the staying power of "The Sound of Music," possibly because it's based on real-life incidents. It's a welcome revival, highlighted by Douglas Schmidt's awesome scenic designs and Jane Greenwood's period costumes, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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What: "The Sound of Music"

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays until July 31

Cost: Call for information

Information: (714) 556-2787

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TOM TITUS reviews local theater.

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