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Von Trapps’ lodge taps interest Parsons to appear on Broadway in spring

STOWE, Vermont, Dec 13, (Agencies): Even if it’s good for business, NBC’s revival of “The Sound of Music” wasn’t one of the von Trapps’ favorite things. Three-quarters of a century after they arrived from Austria, and in the week since the televised version of the musical classic became a national topic of conversation, the singing family and the vacation lodge it runs in the hills of Vermont are in high demand. And yes, the family was watching as Carrie Underwood, in a widely watched and panned performance, took over the role of Maria von Trapp, made famous on Broadway by Mary Martin and on film by Julie Andrews. Kristina von Trapp, granddaughter of the real Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987, visited guests as it was shown at the inn in Stowe. And in a blog post, Francoise von Trapp, daughter of Maria von Trapp’s stepson Rupert, questioned the casting.

“For everyone who thought the whole thing was wonderful and that NBC did a spectacular job, I say maybe your expectations weren’t high to begin with,” she wrote. “If they hoped to have created a new holiday classic, I think they missed their mark.” But they aren’t denying the musical is helping business, even if the majority of callers are merely curious and not making reservations. “It definitely stirred up a lot of conversation wanting to know was the family watching, things like that,” said Jennifer Vincent, the lodge’s marketing director. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. Whenever the movie starring Andrews and Christopher Plummer airs on television — typically around Christmas — the lodge gets a lot of traffic on its website and social media, Vincent said. More than 18 million people tuned in to the revival, according to the Nielsen company. NBC plans an encore broadcast Saturday.

The musical and movie are a fictionalized account of the life of Maria von Trapp and tell the story of a 1930s Austrian governess who teaches her charges to sing and falls in love with her employer, naval captain Georg von Trapp, and the family’s flight during World War II. They moved to Vermont in 1942 after visiting during a singing tour and vacationing in Stowe. “They enjoyed the kind of quality of people that were here in Vermont,” said Sam Messer, who gives tours of the lodge. “They loved kind of the work ethic and stick-to-it-iveness.” They built a rustic farmhouse and started taking in boarders. As a ski industry developed in the area, they expanded. Fire destroyed it in 1980, but the family rebuilt. One of the captain’s daughters, also named Maria von Trapp, would play accordion and teach Austrian dance with sister Rosemarie at the lodge. Rosemarie also taught her sons how to play the recorder, said Phoebe Everson, of Plattsburgh, New York, who has been a visitor for decades.

Four of the 10 von Trapp siblings are still alive, although none live at the lodge anymore. At least three are still in Vermont. The 96-room chalet style inn is the height of charm during the holidays. With its wide views of the mountains that reminded the family of their native Austria, the lodge is decorated with Christmas trees and poinsettias. In the restaurants, wiener schnitzel and apple strudel are on the menu, as well as the family’s beer and some dishes coming from the Scotch cattle and egg-laying hens they raise. Photographs line the halls showing the von Trapp girls in Austrian-style dresses, or the family pouring concrete for the foundation and doing the haying and maple sugaring — which they still do. Aside from a large network of cross-country ski trails, the inn offers fitness and yoga classes, snowshoeing, mountain biking, summer concerts and wine tastings, as well as occasional harp lessons — and frequent music. On Christmas Eve, guests get a special treat: The von Trapp family sings Christmas carols with the guests. But no songs from “The Sound of Music.”

Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons and Tony Award winner Stephen will take their dark comedy “The Velocity of Autumn” to Broadway. Producers said Thursday that playwright Eric Coble’s play about a feisty elderly woman in a showdown with her family over where she should live has found a home at the Booth Theatre. Previews begin April 1. The play, with the same two leads, was a hit at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, this year. Parsons, who was on TV’s “Roseanne,” plays an artist who barricades herself in her apartment in a faceoff with her children. Her long-lost son, played by Spinella, sneaks in through a window and a showdown really begins.

When actress Rebecca Hall first read “Machinal,” the 1920s play in which she will make her Broadway debut early next year, her reaction was so strong she felt her throat tightening. Hall’s response, and the fact that it was being directed by Briton Lyndsey Turner, convinced the British actress she had to play the young murderess in the drama that hasn’t been staged on Broadway in 85 years. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a more physical response to a piece of writing,” said Hall, the star of films such as Woody Allen’s 2008 romance “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona” and this year’s Disney-Marvel blockbuster superhero sequel “Iron Man 3.” “I think it is extraordinarily powerful. I think it was way ahead of its time,” she added of the play.

“Machinal,” a stylized drama that begins previews on Dec 20 and opens Jan 16. at the American Airlines theater, was written by American playwright and journalist Sophie Treadwell. It was inspired by the true story of Ruth Snyder, a New York woman who died in the electric chair in the state’s Sing Sing prison in January 1928 at the age of 33. Treadwell covered the sensational trial of Snyder, accused of plotting the murder of her husband in March 1927 with her lover, that sparked a media frenzy later that year. Hall, 31, plays a young woman who lives in a mechanized, male-dominated world, works in a boring job, marries her insensitive boss, and is trapped in a loveless marriage with a child. She rebels against convention and takes a young lover.
Briton Stephen Daldry directed actress Fiona Shaw in a revival of the play at London’s National Theatre in 1993.

“She is everywoman. She is an ordinary woman,” Hall said about the character, adding that there is an opposition in her to the society into which she was born. “Everyone in the play is somehow subconsciously oppressive, including her to herself, and nobody really is to blame. There are no bad guys,” the actress said.
Actor Morgan Spector, of the HBO television series “Boardwalk Empire” and the 2010 film “The Last Airbender,” is the lover in “Machinal,” a role first played by a young Clark Gable when the play premiered on Broadway in September 1928. “When I initially read the play I had this idea that here is this woman and nothing in her life goes well and finally she meets someone she can connect with,” Spector said about his character. “He is the first person who is human to her.”

A lack of human connection in an impersonal, rapidly changing society during a time of industrialization and mechanization is an underlining theme of the play. British actor Michael Cumpsty, 53, said his character, the husband, loves his wife, doesn’t cheat on her or abandon her. But he also doesn’t see her. “The woman knows she isn’t seen at all and that pressure, that dislocation and disassociation, builds and builds,” said the actor, who appeared on Broadway this year in “The Winslow Boy.” “It is a play that shows a road map for how that pressure builds toward chaos and what might be possible to avert it, like a clearer sense of ourselves and a clearer sense of how we can connect with other people,” he added. Although the play was written over 80 years ago, the actors believe there is nothing dated about “Machinal.” “It’s a very contemporary piece. You read the play and it still works,” said Spector. “We’ve only gone further down this road.”

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