We all know the classic Broadway musical (and movie, and live television special) “The Sound of Music,” but this season Segerstrom Center for the Arts is proud to present a lavish new production, which will make its Orange County premiere July 19 – 31, 2016, as part of a North American tour. According to three-time Tony Award® winning director Jack O’Brien, “The Sound of Music” has been in our ears for decades, as it deserves to be. But it might be time to look once more, and more closely, at this remarkable work which, I feel, begins to reveal itself as deeper, richer, and more powerful than ever. It’s no longer ‘your mother’s’ familiar “Sound of Music.” We are tearing off the varnish of the past from one of the great glories of our theatergoing experience, and making it fresh! This is an opportunity we’ve all longed to create!” I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Andy Einhorn, music supervisor extraordinaire! We talked about everything from Jewish mothers to his exciting new project (JLife magazine got the exclusive scoop!) Here is our conversation.
What is it about this score and these songs that set it apart from everything else? Is it nostalgia, since we all grew up singing these songs with our family, or is it just really well written, in your professional opinion? It’s both. With music by composer Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein—there was a great sense of humanity in these people. The music is simple but not simplistic. It calls to the human condition- the lyrics in some of the songs show that Hammerstein spoke to the human spirit and soul. That’s why you can’t find a person who doesn’t know the words to “My Favorite Things” and can finish the lyrics to Raindrops on Roses… (and whiskers on kittens). Whether you listened as a child, or performed in a high school production, or saw the movie—it has become ingrained in our culture, and we all found our passion along the way.
I wanted to get your take on why this musical is so timeless, and its relevance today in terms of the anti-Semitism that is happening in Europe, college campuses and all over the world right now? You know, I spent two months in Paris where I was working on an opera, and my mother is Jewish, so of course all I would hear is her voice telling me to “be careful.” But I didn’t feel that anti-Semitism at all—I feel that right now there’s so much going on in the world that they are looking for allies, and that’s us!
What’s so powerful about this production is its historical accuracy. During that specific time period, 1939 in Austria, there was a real sense of danger, the movie is a bit “bubble gum” in terms of covering that up, but in the stage production there’s a whole sub plot, that’s not in the movie between the adults and their love story. There is this idea of who you are during this time period, and how to play politically in the right social circles- this greatly affected the Von Trapp family. What’s interesting now is the crazy political climate which makes this story still revalent in our society.
We are a Jewish magazine and I’m curious about something it says on your resume, that you were involved in “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy”- can you tell me a little about that? I knew you were going to bring this up! I was honored to be a part of an amazing project for PBS—the documentary actually won a Peabody Award! It was a follow up to another documentary called “Broadway: The Golden Age” and it explored the theme of why all the great composers were Jewish. Richard Rodgers was Jewish, so was Irving Berlin! The immigrant background of these people and the cantorial tradition and the Eastern European influence really shaped their identity and infiltrated their music. There is a great opening number that David Hyde Pierce did for the musical “Spamalot”— the lyrics are “So, listen, Arthur darling, closely to this news: We won’t succeed on Broadway, If you don’t have any Jews.”
Also in New York in the 1920s, Jews were congregating around one another and controlled Tin Pan Alley—where all the music publishers and composers were together in one street down the hallways.
How has your Jewish upbringing influenced you personally and professionally? Is it important in your life? Definitely! Growing up I went to religious school and had such a love for Jewish music and love for the melodies. I also taught music at my temple on Saturday mornings. Even to this day I have a group of Jewish friends here in New York City, and we gather around the piano and sing Jewish songs.
What are you working on now? I am currently working on a production called “Holiday Inn” by Irving Berlin, which will debut in the fall and I will give you a little exclusive scoop since I know my mom can’t wait to tell her friends. Next Spring I will be conducting the Broadway revival of “Hello Dolly!” starring Bette Midler!
(After some squealing and shouting and congratulations over the phone I was able to gather myself and finish the interview like the professional that I am).
Best piece of advice you were given? It’s important to just be yourself and be comfortable with that and know what your talents are—the right things will come to you. On the flip side the things that I’ve tried to make happen have ended in disaster. What is meant to be will be and you only have so much control over certain things. I wish people would have told me that it’s ok to say no. Protect yourself- and trust your gut.
Also, I wanted to add that this show is a vivid and honest portrayal of the musical we all know and love—you hear the songs in a fresh and potent way. There is great heart to this production and some truly beautiful and touching moments. I think people are really going to love it!
For more information and to purchase tickets please visit www.scfta.org.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.