Visit MaineToday's profile on Pinterest.

About The Author


Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

Send an email | Read more from Ray

Posted: February 24, 2016

Salzburg Marionette Theatre presents ‘Sound of Music’ at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium

Written by: Ray Routhier
"The Sound of Music"

Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s ‘The Sound of Music’ Photo courtesy of Portland Ovations

In the film “The Sound of Music,” there’s a wonderful and whimsical scene where the von Trapp family puts on a little musical show at home using marionettes.

Now a 100-year-old marionette company based in the von Trapps’ native Austria is putting on a version of “The Sound of Music” on stages all over the world.

The Salzburg Marionette Theatre will perform its version of “The Sound of Music” at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday. The show is being brought to Maine by Portland Ovations.

Nearly a dozen puppeteers will be working the strings to bring the marionette cast to life, including the seven von Trapp children, their father and their governess.

The marionettes, ranging from about a foot to 2 feet tall, are each controlled by 10 to 12 different strings, said Barbara Heuberger, the marionette company’s director. There are generally three strings to direct head movements, two for the arms, one for the back and two for the legs. Each marionette may have different strings in different places, depending on how they have to move in the show, Heuberger said.

"The Sound of Music"

Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s ‘The Sound of Music’ Photo courtesy of Portland Ovations

“It gets quite crowded up there. There are scenes when (the characters) are dancing and the puppeteers have to pass the marionettes to each other, to keep everything moving,” Heuberger said.

Though the Salzburg Marionette Theatre was founded in 1913 and has been a major tourist attraction in Austria for most of its life, the company only began doing contemporary musicals in 2007, Heuberger said, with “The Sound of Music” being the first. Most of the 170 or so performances in Austria each are of operas. The theatre tours for about 30 dates each year.

Portland’s “Sound of Music” show will feature music, singing and dialogue recorded with an orchestra in New York in 2007. The part of Maria is sung by Broadway actress Christiane Noll, known for her roles in a revival of “Ragtime” and “Jekyll & Hyde.”

Heuberger said her company’s performance is shorter than the Broadway version or the film. It usually runs about an hour and 45 minutes, but Heuberger says none of the “most popular” songs are cut.

The performance is “mostly” based on the Broadway version of the “The Sound of Music.” The musical, created by the legendary team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp. Set in Austria in the late 1930s, it tells of how Maria takes the job of governess for the large von Trapp family and eventually marries the children’s father, just as the Nazis order him to accept a commission in the German navy.

Some of the best known songs include “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Heuberger said the puppeteers in the Salzburg Marionette Theatre spend years learning their craft, practicing and watching. Often a puppeteer is given small tasks in several shows before being given full duties.

“It’s like playing an instrument; you have to listen to the music and dialogue so you know exactly when to bow the head or move the legs,” Heuberger said.

Salzburg Marionette Theatre: ‘The Sound of Music’
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $30 to $40

Up Next: