'The Sound of Music' arrives at Trapp Family Lodge as family learns to embrace the musical

This week’s first-ever concert performances of “The Sound of Music” at Trapp Family Lodge – the Stowe business run by members of the family featured in the musical − sold out three shows quickly. A fourth was added, and that sold out, too.

The woman who imagined the concert years ago was not surprised.

“I have said since the outset this is going to sell so quick, so fast, and people are going to love it. It has such wonderful local connections,” said Erin Evarts, executive director of Lyric Theatre, which is performing the concerts June 20-22 with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

“Vermonters love this story and love an outdoor concert,” Evarts said. “We’re pretty excited having the family kind of bless the project and be willing to host us at their home.”

That blessing took decades. The von Trapp family appreciated the art of the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, said Sam von Trapp, the grandson of Maria and Baron Georg von Trapp, who now runs the lodge. He said the von Trapps, though, haven’t always embraced the blurred lines between the musical and the real-life story of the singing family’s escape during the Nazi annexation of Austria.

“It’s really special because it took decades for our family to sort of really warm up to the musical,” according to von Trapp, director and executive vice president of the business that includes an inn, restaurants and a brewery/beerhall. “As you can imagine our family had a more complex relationship with ‘The Sound of Music’ than many other people did. It’s easier with each generation to form their own relationship with it.”

The family long felt it would be “too commercial” to perform “The Sound of Music” on its property, according to von Trapp.

“Now we realize,” he said, “it’s recognizing our amazing legacy of our family story.”

‘Story of the Trapp Family Singers’

Evarts wanted to present “The Sound of Music” at Trapp Family Lodge now for several reasons. It’s the end of Lyric’s 50th season, the start of the VSO’s 90th season, the 75th anniversary of the Maria von Trapp book “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” that inspired the musical, and the 65th anniversary of the premiere of the Broadway show that includes famous songs such as “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things” and “Edelweiss.”

“It’s been kind of a passion project for me for a long, long time,” she said.

Evarts was at Leunig’s Bistro a couple of years ago, listening to music during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival with Elise Brunelle, executive director of the VSO. Evarts mentioned her desire to present “The Sound of Music” at Trapp Family Lodge, and they decided to pursue a joint concert not unlike the New Year’s Eve “Burlington Does Broadway” performances that the organizations have presented at the Flynn.

The Flynn is among the partners in the production, as the Burlington performing-arts center managed ticket sales and will be the rain site in case the Trapp Family Lodge concert meadow can’t be used. (The meadow’s capacity is 1,850 while the Flynn can seat 1,411 patrons; Evarts said some patrons bought “shine only” tickets knowing they will not be valid and will be refunded in case of bad weather.)

The performances will be concerts and not a staging of the musical – a first from the company licensing “The Sound of Music,” according to Evarts. She said rules for that variation mean the performances will have no props or costumes and “a fairly bare stage” of singers and 41 orchestra members.

Andrew Crust, music director for the VSO, grew up listening to “The Sound of Music.” “I had it deep in my brain, like many of us do,” the conductor said. “It’s just incredibly good music.”

The VSO isn’t abandoning Beethoven and Mozart, Crust said, but is embracing more celebratory outdoor events such as this one.

“These kinds of projects are really what (the VSO) should be doing,” Crust said. “We have to meet people where they are.”

Cast members of "The Sound of Music" concert presented by Lyric Theatre and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra perform in a rehearsal at Lyric's space in South Burlington.
Cast members of "The Sound of Music" concert presented by Lyric Theatre and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra perform in a rehearsal at Lyric's space in South Burlington.

Depictions of Baron von Trapp

Sam von Trapp said he finally became a fan of the musical in his early 50s, in large part by watching through the eyes of his sons as they enjoyed it.

“That soundtrack is so powerful and music, especially music of that quality, just really unites human beings,” he said. “That to me is the good thing about ‘The Sound of Music’ is the message of the musical and its soundtrack, which is generally so positive.”

The feelings of his father, Johannes von Trapp – the lone survivor among Maria and Georg von Trapp’s children − and other family members were not always so positive. That has a lot to do with portrayals of Maria’s husband, the grandfather of Sam von Trapp.

“Georg, far from being the detached, cold-blooded patriarch of the family who disapproved of music, as portrayed in the first half of 'The Sound of Music,' was actually a gentle, warmhearted parent who enjoyed musical activities with his family,” reads the article “Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the Von Trapp Family” on the National Archives website. “While this change in his character might have made for a better story in emphasizing Maria's healing effect on the von Trapps, it distressed his family greatly.”

“That was really, I think, the discrepancy that bothered my family the most,” according to Sam von Trapp, who runs the lodge with his sister, Kristina von Trapp Frame, and her husband, Walter Frame. “It has such a positive message and that is what really brought me along.”

Crust of the VSO said that message makes “The Sound of Music” timely. He said the musical not only has “tunes that refuse to leave your head for weeks at a time,” it carries themes of gender roles, fascism, how to raise children, how to express emotion and how to deal with loss.

“To me ‘The Sound of Music’ has been something that has always brought joy,” Evarts of Lyric Theatre said. “To do that for 7,500 people, that’s special.”

Sam von Trapp also sees how special this week’s concerts can be.

“To have them play the soundtrack to our family story that I’ve now grown to not only accept but appreciate, for me it’s a little bit of coming full circle,” he said. “It’s like coming back together with an estranged friend you really care about.”

If you go

WHAT: “The Sound of Music” in concert by Lyric Theatre and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20-Saturday, June 22, 2 p.m. Saturday, June 22

WHERE: Trapp Family Lodge concert meadow, Stowe (rain site: the Flynn, Burlington)

INFORMATION: Sold out. www.flynnvt.org, www.vso.org or www.lyrictheatrevt.org

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: 'Sound of Music' concert at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont