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HGO Brings The Sound of Music to Wortham Center

Beloved musical runs through May 12

Cast of The Sound of Music (l-r): Antonio Rico, Abigail Lee, Tori Tedeschi-Adams, Lora Uvarova, Isabel Leonard, Annie Voorhees, Macie-Joy Speer, Peter Theurer

Houston Grand Opera has brought one of the most beloved classic musicals to the stage. Wortham Center’s Brown Theater is filled with The Sound of Music, running through May 12.

The central character is a young postulant, Maria, who ventures outside the abbey to work as a governess to the seven unruly children of a strict widowed father, under the disapproving eye of the father’s fiancée, a stone-cold baroness. Through her time with them, Maria teaches the family music, fun, and love—all set within the backdrop of World War II.

“It is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, works of American musical theater ever written, but it’s also a live performance,” says Richard Bado, Houston Grand Opera chorus conductor. “So many people have at some point or other in their lives seen the movie The Sound of Music, but this would be a live performance. So it’s not just a full-stage production with full sets, costumes, and props, but also singers and chorus. It’s a big, almost 50-piece orchestra playing, so it’s a grand production of an American musical theater classic.”

World War II plays a significant role in how the plot develops throughout the production. 

“It’s a very antifascist piece, but as a little kid, that goes over your head. As you get older, you see that people have choices to make in life,” says Bado. “When you see injustices you either choose to speak up and say something, or you remain silent. And the show really addresses a lot of that.”

That makes the piece very relevant, especially today. 

“[The original production] talks about the Nazis coming in and taking over Austria, the oppression there, and everything that goes along with the Holocaust” he explains. “So you can [relate that to events] that are happening right now.”

Oftentimes movie versions are not the same as staged versions, so don’t expect a line-by-line reproduction of the film. Audiences familiar only with the movie version will hear for the first time two songs from the stage production that were not included in the movie: “How Can Love Survive?” sung by Baroness Elsa Schraeder and “No Way to Stop It” sung by Captain von Trapp’s close friend Max Detweiler, two characters who have no singing roles in the movie. Also, just because he felt fans of the movie might be disappointed not to hear them, Bado also added, for the first time on stage, two songs that were written for the movie: “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good.”

Another major difference between the stage production and the film adaptation is how the split between Captain von Trapp and the baroness is characterized. While the movie version shows his disappointed fiancée magnanimously stepping aside as she realizes he’s in love with someone else—a typically Disney, family-oriented alternative—in the stage version, the breakup takes a dark turn.

“In the stage version, it’s more pointed,” Bado explains. “They break up because of their political differences. He is against Germans taking over Austria, and she says if it’s going to happen, just let it happen and go along with it. He cannot abide that, and that is why they break up.”

This is not Bado’s first time to work with The Sound of Music, albeit in an unexpected way. HGO planned to perform The Sound of Music in 2021, but due to COVID-19, those plans were scrapped. Instead, the organization performed a concert of selections from the production at TDECU Stadium, and Bado conducted from the 50-yard line among a socially distanced complement of musicians.

Now, HGO has revived the previously halted production, and it’s making record sales for the company. It’s no wonder why.

The original stage production won five Tony Awards in 1960, including the top award, Best Musical. It was adapted into a film in 1965 and has become a staple of choral curricula and a go-to movie to keep students occupied and entertained during those last few days of the school year.

The Sound of Music is a Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II collaboration. The pair is one of musical theater’s most celebrated duos, and they are the same team responsible for other blockbuster shows like Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific, and many more. Collectively, the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein earned 42 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards.

Fittingly, “Edelweiss,” the last song they wrote together, is a white flower that grows in the Alps but subliminally serves as Captain von Trapp’s farewell to his homeland in the show.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s influence on music lasted well beyond the end of their collaboration, when Hammerstein died in 1960. Hammerstein had only one student in his lifetime, and his name was Leonard Bernstein—and we know his impact on symphonic performances and musical theater (Hint: West Side Story).

On Saturday, May 11, Houston Grand Opera will host Pride Night for their production of The Sound of Music. Audiences will enjoy a special performance from Pride Chorus Houston, themed cocktails and décor. 

What: Houston Grand Opera’s The Sound of Music
When: Through May 12
Where: Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave.
713-228-6737 or visit 




Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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