Fraulein Maria shows its cleverness from the opening number

November 19, 2009

Something Good

by Deni Kasrel

City Paper

November 19, 2009

It's interesting how if something is funny you may overlook how it's also pretty serious.

That's the deal with Fraulein Maria, Doug Elkins' comedic homage to The Sound of Music. The show is clever from the opening number, where swaths of fabric suggest the verdant, hilly locale of the movie version for this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

Other visual cues are not writ so large, as happens in the "Edelweiss" number, where a character catches a prop with an outstretched Nazi "Sieg heil" arm.

And then there's the tour-de-force "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," performed by Elkins in hip-hop basketball attire (the hoodie slyly suggests a nun's habit). This solo is an extravaganza all by itself. Elkin's crotch-grabbing comments on the idea of machismo while his fluid moves exemplify the soul-searching lyrics, which are about being inspired to reach for one's dreams. Elkin's gestures, indicative of energy furiously ripping through his body like a wave, superbly represent how he's experiencing something from both within and beyond himself. It's fantastic, really.

Fraulein Maria's conceit is ingenious: The dance is an adroit amalgam of modern, contemporary and urban street styles with vaudevillian slapstick thrown in. It's New York downtown deconstruction presented as broad entertainment.

Elkins gender-bends and makes generous use of visual puns, like when movement phrases enact the different syllables of "Do-Re-Mi." He inserts playful, over-the-top sexual innuendo with "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."

While the storyline is telegraphed in dramatic snippets, the grist here is the dancing to all those the familiar tunes. And even if you've not seen the movie in years (I fall into this category), you have an inkling of what's about to ensue based on just a prop or two. You see a window with curtains, and wink, wink, of course know the fabric will turn into outfits for those von Trapp kids.

Many of us first viewed The Sound of Music as children and Elkins is counting on our sentimental memories to stir up emotional impact. It's a winning gambit.

Nov. 13, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.