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A New Maria Brings New 'Sound Of Music' To Connecticut

Mention to Charlotte Maltby that "The Sound of Music" had its premiere at New Haven's Shubert theater in 1959 and she'll tell you she's heard all about it.

Her father, the Broadway lyricist ("Baby," "Big") and director Richard Maltby Jr., was a student at Yale back then and saw the pre-Broadway out-of-town try-out of the "The Sound of Music" several times.

Charlotte Maltby brings "The Sound of Music" back to Connecticut this week for eight performances March 7 to 12 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. She stars as Maria, the young nun who is hired as a governess to look after the seven children of Austrian Navy Capt. Georg von Trapp. Maria and the children form a singing group at around the same time that the captain finds himself in conflict with the ruling Nazi party.

This "Sound of Music" has not been on Broadway and was created expressly for touring. It has been on the road since 2015, yet this is its first visit to Connecticut. The show is directed by Jack O'Brien, whose Broadway credits include the rather more contemporary musicals "Hairspray," "The Full Monty" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." O'Brien's next show is "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which has its first performances on Broadway later this month.

Maltby has been with the "Sound of Music" tour only since January. "This show is so incredible," she said in a phone interview last month, "that you settle right into it." The production stays largely faithful to the original Rodgers and Hammerstein score and script, Maltby says, though "most people think we've put changes in, because they know the movie."

A song written for the 1965 Julie Andrews movie version, "Something Good," has been included in this stage version (with some of its lyrics rewritten), but certain songs and scenes are in a different order than in the film. Maltby also says the tone can differ, "This is darker, more political, than the movie."

A key distinction of this rendition is that Maltby is only 23 years old. Mary Martin was 45 when she originated the role of Maria in 1959. Julie Andrews was 30 when she made the film version. Petula Clark starred in a major British revival when she was 49. But the real-life Maria, on whose memoir "The Story of the von Trapp Family" the musical was based, was 20 when she met the 45-year-old Capt. von Trapp, and 22 when she married him.

When taking on the role, the actress says "I was free to make Maria my own. I had Jack O'Brien's blessing. He made it so clear to me at the beginning that I was not in anybody's shadow."

O'Brien still checks in regularly on how the tour is doing. He worked with Maltby in New York prior to her joining the company, saw her first performance two months ago and may visit the show again in Waterbury.

An alumna of the famed Stagedoor Manor performing arts summer camp and a graduate of the prestigious musical theater program at the University of Michigan, Maltby says she tries to find the dramatic truth in each song of the show. For the classic sing-along "Do-Re-Mi," she explains, "I am using 'Solfeggio' as a teaching tool for these children. I'm making the song up as I go along."

She finds a similar motive for another song in the show. "Until I was playing this role, I had no idea why 'The Lonely Goatherd' was in the show. It's a silly song — what does this have to do with the story? Now I realize that these kids have come running into the bedroom during a a thunderstorm. I'm making up a song on the spot to make the children feel better — it's a bonding song, like 'I have to cheer you up because you're scared.'"

Playing Maria, Maltby laughs, "is not something I'd ever considered until it smacked me in the face. I often get cast in things I somehow don't see myself doing. My first job outside of school was Penny in 'Hairspray.' Then I was Martha in 'The Secret Garden.' This is my first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. I don't usually get to use my soprano voice."

The star is well aware of the show's legendary status. It won the 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical (in a tie with "Fiorello") and an Oscar for Best Picture in 1965, with the movie soundtrack album staying in the top 10 of the music charts for 109 weeks.

But Maltby says that "though this is an older musical, it's relevant in today's climate. It's about standing up against higher political powers and fighting back. I'm so grateful that I get to bring this musical to audiences now."

THE SOUND OF MUSIC plays March 7 to 12 at the Palace Theatre, 100 E. Main St., Waterbury. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $64.50 to $94.50; call 203-346-2000 or visit palacetheaterct.org.

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