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How do you solve a problem like "The Sound of Music?"

Posted at 3:33 PM on December 5, 2007 by Euan Kerr

Wendy Knox looks for answers

Wendy Knox says when she got a phone call asking her to direct the Ordway's holiday production of "The Sound of Music" she half looked around for hidden cameras because she thought some one was pulling her leg. Knox, the longtime leader of Frank Theatre is known for her iconoclastic productions, but couldn't quite see why the Ordway would think of her.

The thing was, it wasn't a joke, the Ordway really did want her to direct. The person who was lined up for the job fell through and so they needed a good director and they needed that director fast. So Knox got the call.

The announcement caused raised eyebrows around the Twin Cities theater community. Frank's most recent production was "The Pillowman" which, while performed at the Guthrie, is a small and intense show about child abuse. The closest Knox has come to doing a show on the scale of "The Sound of Music" was "When the Cradle will Rock" four years back, a musical which Knox described at the time as "a big old pro-union play."

Now she has an orchestra which is pretty much the size of the entire cast of "Cradle" and a huge cadre of children, nuns, and Nazis to direct.

And she is having a ball.

One of her biggest problems, though, is "the movie."

How do you put on a stage show of a story which formed the basis of a movie, which just about everyone in the western hemisphere has seen at least once? How do you make the show fresh?

Knox laughs and says people shouldn't worry whether she will be messing with a much loved classic. She's been using the experience to learn the tricks of the large scale musical trade.

However she has also been trying to get her actors to forget the film as much as possible, and the way she has done this has been to be as she puts it "a pitbull with the text." She has been working with the cast to break down the material and to explore what it actually means.

"The Sound of Music" goes into preview early next week and then opening night is Friday December 14th.

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