There is no work in musical theater that is as familiar as Rodgers & Hammerstein's chronicle of the youthful nun-in-training Maria Rainer (Meg Tolin) and her adventures with Capt. Georg von Trapp (Richard Chamberlain) and his seven children. It is a tribute to director Susan H. Schulman, a spectacularly inventive design team and an outstanding ensemble that this road show production is as vibrantly inventive and captivating as if it were having its world premiere.

There is no work in musical theater that is as familiar as Rodgers & Hammerstein’s chronicle of the youthful nun-in-training Maria Rainer (Meg Tolin) and her adventures with Capt. Georg von Trapp (Richard Chamberlain) and his seven children during the period just before Germany’s pre- World War II surge into Austria. It is a tribute to director Susan H. Schulman, a spectacularly inventive design team and an outstanding ensemble that this road show production of this well-worn work is as vibrantly inventive and captivating as if it were having its world premiere.

Schulman has invigorated the storyline and the characters with such a zestful, humor-filled inner life, there is a sense of discovering the plot and the personalities for the first time. The director is aided immensely by the wonderfully mobile, richly detailed sets of Heidi Ettinger and the sumptuous, mood-enhancing lighting of Paul Gallo.

Their efforts are showcased perfectly in what is usually one of the lesser numbers, “Maria,” wherein Mother Abbess (Jeanne Lehman) and three other nuns (Sylvia Rhyne, Linda Strasser, Betsi Morrison) ruminate over whether the young postulant is or isn’t “an asset to the abbey.”

By imbuing the scene with the laborious tasks that are a daily part of convent life, the discussion over Maria’s suitability takes on the profound importance of how her actions will affect the stability of these ladies who have devoted their lives to this spiritual calling.

Of course, this is Maria’s story, and Tolin just soars through it with a soaring voice and personality that exudes life-affirming vigor and humor. She captures perfectly the essence of a blossoming young woman who can relate on almost a peer level with the von Trapp children in such ditties as “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things,” yet radiate a palpable feminine allure in her “Something Good” duet with Capt. von Trapp.

Though he doesn’t possess an equal vocal strength and surety of pitch, Chamberlain’s staunch, socially rigid Captain offers a perfect contrast to the emotionally overflowing Maria. Chamberlain effectively communicates the emotional evolution of this man whose resistance crumbles when witnessing how his children have blossomed under Maria’s caring tutelage.

It is such a delight to find the children have such distinct personalities and haven’t just been cast according to height. Carissa Farina absolutely makes viable Maria’s awareness that “Brigitta notices everything.” And Megan McGinnis’s Liesl is a bud just bursting to bloom, particularly in her hilariously aggressive “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” duet with Ben Sheaffer’s young Nazi-wannabe Rolf, highlighted by choreographer Michael Lichtefeld’s folk dance-imbued pas de deux. The children certainly have an ally in Lichtefeld, whose inventiveness also enhances the utter charm of “So Long, Farewell” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”

As the worldly outsiders, Rachel DeBenedet’s sophisticated Elsa Schraeder and Drew Eshelman’s comically scheming Max Detweiler make perfectly clear that the world is turning on darker times in their macabre proclamation that there is “No Way to Stop It.”

Sound of Music

Pantages Theatre: 2,760 seats; $57 top

Production

Thomas Viertel, Steven Baruch, Richard Frankel, Marc Routh, Jujamcyn Theaters, SFX Theatrical Group, Dede Harris/Jeslo Prods., the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Jay Binder, Martin Rabbett present "The Sound of Music," a musical play in two acts, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse, directed by Susan H. Schulman.

Creative

Choreographer, Michael Lichtefeld. Associate producer, James D. Stern. Scenery, Heidi Ettinger; costumes, Catherine Zuber; lighting, Paul Gallo; sound, Tony Meola; supervising music director, Michael Rafter; music director, Randy Booth, orchestrations, Bruce Coughlin, original orchestrations, Robert Russell Bennett. Opened and reviewed March 1, 2000; runs until March 5. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

Cast

Captain Georg von Trapp - Richard Chamberlain Maria Rainer - Meg Tolin Elsa Schraeder - Rachel DeBenedet Max Detweiler - Drew Eshelman The Mother Abbess - Jeanne Lehman Liesl von Trapp - Megan McGinnis Friedrich von Trapp - Gregg Sullo Louisa von Trapp - Tracy Alison Walsh Kurt von Trapp - Matthew Bowles Brigitta von Trapp - Carissa Farina Marta von Trapp - Rita Glynn Gretl von Trapp - Madeleine Martin Rolf Gruber - Ben Sheaffer Franz, the butler - Tad Ingram Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper - Joy Franz
Ensemble: Lenora Eve, Michael Hayword-Jones, Catherine LaValle, Liz Lombardi, Betsi Morrison, Jan Pessano, Aimee Pilgermayer, Steve Pudenz, Kate Reinders, Sylvia Rhyne, Linda Strasser, Luke Walrath.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more