Musical memories: Iconic Broadway musical bringing classic tale to Eisenhower Auditorium

Jill Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer and the von Trapp children as shown in a scene from "The Sound of Music."

By Cherie Hicks

he storyline is basically the same, but a couple of songs in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music” cut from the movie are restored in a traveling production coming to the Eisenhower Auditorium at Penn State University Park later this month.

“There’s something about seeing it in the original form. It was a Broadway show before it was a movie,” said Mike McLean, who plays Capt. Georg von Trapp.

Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts is presenting the iconic musical at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 and 15, and it anchors the five touring Broadway offerings this season “by being the classic, traditional musical in the series,” said Laura Sullivan, marketing and communications director for the CPA.

“Name recognition, familiarity with the storyline, and the music, which just about anyone from 18 to 92 can sing at least one or two lines of lyrics from, make this a popular choice for musical theater enthusiasts time and time again,” she said. “It’s a production that the entire family can enjoy. … ‘The Sound of Music’ should be among some of your favorite things.”

The movie and Broadway show, with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, combined for Tony, Grammy and Academy awards for Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

The touring show is presented by NETworks Presentations and is a relaunch of the 2015 national tour. It is on a 60-city tour that kicked off last month and runs through May 2018.

Sullivan noted that the film version remains a fan favorite and marked its 50th anniversary in 2015.

“It is a dream come true,” McLean said. “I’m having a great time and the show is getting incredible reviews. It’s just a pleasure to be in it.”

He said he believes the musical focuses a little more on adult themes and relationships than the movie did.

“When I think of the movie, I think of the kids, some singing nuns,” he said. “You might not realize until you see our show how thick the story is with real adult issues. Rediscovering your children, finding new love after a deceased spouse. There’s a political side, fighting for what’s right.”

But the musical is for everyone, McLean said.

“It’s for kids, it’s for you, it’s for people who love musical theater, for people who maybe think they don’t love musical theater,” he said. “We’ll make them laugh, and we’ll make them cry.”

McLean had never previously been involved in a production of “The Sound of Music,” and said Capt. von Trapp is a fascinating character.

“It’s always fun to dive into a new character,” he said. “There are so many layers. He starts out as a very hurt individual. He can’t be around his children, can’t have music in his life. It’s just too painful.”

But he rediscovers music and love, thanks to the star of the show, the governess Maria Rainer, played by Julie Andrews in the movie and by Jill-Christine Wiley in the touring musical.

McLean said it’s not his first time touring, having previously participated in “Guys and Dolls” and “Saturday Night Fever.”

The Costa Mesa, California, native said he always loved singing, acting and telling stories. He studied theater at the University of Southern California and did some acting and other commercial work in the region, which was not very fulfilling.

“I was in LA, at a standstill, not knowing how to get to the next level,” McLean said. “One day I woke up and said I’ve got to go to New York and I’ve got to start singing again and let people know I can sing and act at the same time.”

A year later, he packed his car and drove across the country; fortunately he had a sister and friends who lived in New York.

“Still it was a big move, and it turned out to be the right move,” McLean said.

Within three months, he got that first touring job with “Guys and Dolls” and has worked consistently since then.

At 31 now, McLean said his advice to youngsters who want to perform would be to “keep doing what you love and don’t be afraid to not know what that is yet.

“The theater world, the music world, it’s not easy,” he said. “And it’s OK if you’re 12, 13, or 14 and you love musical theater. Keep loving it, but explore life. Taste it all. Go see different kinds of art and engage with artists in different fields. Read everything. Don’t box yourself in.”

McLean’s advice to everyone is to go see the show.

“This production is by far the best I’ve been a part of,” he said. “The actors are so talented. The costumes are amazing. The lighting is beautiful. The scenery, the set changes are all so well done.

“Even for people who think they know the show, you need to check this out. I’ll guarantee you that you’ll see something fresh.”

NOTE: An informal moderated discussion featuring visiting artists is offered in the auditorium one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at


If you go

What: “The Sound of Music”

Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State, University Park

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-15

Admission: $42-$68

Tickets/More info:, (814) 863-0255, 800-ARTS-TIX