It was Opening Night of the latest offering from The Woodlands Repertory Theatre, and what could be more familiar than the perennial favorite, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s, “The Sound of Music?” Of course there is danger there. How will it compare to the well-known film version? Will the role of Maria be overshadowed by memories of Julie Andrews? Relax dear readers! Woodlands Rep has made the show very much its own!
Produced and directed by Keith Brumfield, this production features a fine orchestra conducted by Musical Director, Rae Moses. Set in the beautiful mountains of 1930’s Austria, the show opens with the lovely chapel bells of the nunnery, and the stunningly beautiful “Praeludium” chant of the nuns in candlelit procession through the hushed audience. One had the feeling of being in church. Next we meet our sparkling Maria, joyfully played by Kelly Smith. While her warm and gentle opening vocal of “The Sound of Music” did not seem quite as free-spirited as the Julie Andrews we recall whirling on the mountain, it would be but a short time until the appealing Miss Smith would win over the audience with many charms and talents of her own.
The next delight is the delicious quartet from the Mother Abbess (angel-voiced Patti Rascon), along with Sisters Margaretta, Berthe, and Sophia (Debra Moses, Sherry Hunyadi, and Macy Fontaine, respectively). They ask the musical question: How do you solve a problem like “Maria?” The fun continues when Maria and Mother Abbess sing the delightful, “My Favorite Things,” but soon the troublesome young Maria is asked to leave the abbey for a time to serve as governess to the seven children of naval Captain von Trapp (Craig Boudreaux). She takes on the task bravely in song with the cheerful, “I Have Confidence.” Next we meet the von Trapp children with Claire Berger as Liesl, Zachary Tavlin as Friedrich, Morgan Starr as Louisa, Harrison Baker as Kurt, Jenny Gee as Brigitta, Emily Moses as Marta, and pint-sized charmer, Lacy Tushnet, as scene-stealing Gretl. Seven must be a lucky number because these eager, talented and engaging young performers are just perfect together, and their affectionate interaction with Maria in numbers like “Do, Re, Mi,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” and the reprise of “My Favorite Things,” just adds to the escalating magic. And speaking of magic, what a romantic pairing we have when talented Aaron Boudreaux brings his smooth, appealing voice to the duet of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” while dancing sweetly with the equally talented songstress, Miss Berger. (Choreographer, Fayla Curry).
At the beautiful von Trapp estate (set designer, Kenneth Foy), we meet talent promoter, Max (Trey Westerberg) and the socialite, Elsa (Deborah Tushnet), who has her eyes set on the Captain. Max and Elsa deliver an amusing “How Can Love Survive,” with lyrics sporting the kind of sophisticated wit and spoofing of the upper class that one might associate with Cole Porter more than Rodgers & Hammerstein. Then, in a reprise of the title song, we get our first taste of Mr. Boudreaux’s fine voice as the Captain sings with his children. The Captain’s formal dinner party at the estate features more fine choreography from Curry, as the elegantly dressed guests (costuming from Lee Flowers with Natalie Hurley) dance divinely on the garden patio. Then comes an Act One highlight with the children’s perfectly charming rendition of “So Long, Farewell.”
The soothing quality of the nun’s chanting is again displayed in the “Morning Hymn,” and Miss Rascon delivered a rich, and uplifting “Climb Every Mountain,” that had only a one-second glitch from a brief microphone failure during an otherwise flawless performance. Audio, by the way, was excellent throughout the performance with trouble-free body mikes and fine volume levels. (Sound design, Troy Dingle).
During the intermission I spoke with Woodlands resident, Jean Mosley, who was enjoying her first visit to a Woodlands Rep / Class Act Production and the Nancy Bock Center for the Performing Arts. She commented, “This show is really good! I think they are doing a great job!” Mosley, a retired airline administrator, remembered serving Richard Rodgers in first-class during her days as a stewardess.
Act Two began with the lovely Entr’acte overture of the infectious melodies that have captivated generations, but things become more serious as the rise of the Third Reich sees a takeover of Austria by the Germans. Still there was a romantic warmth in a sweet duet of “Something Good” from the Captain and Maria that was only marred by the annoying crinkling of candy wrappers from an unsupervised youngster behind me. He was rewarded with my best glare, and settled down appropriately before the spectacular wedding scene where Maria and the Captain are married in the abbey amid more glorious singing from the nuns. Of course the von Trapp family must now escape the Nazis during a music festival competition highlighted by the wondrous, “Edelweiss.” The surround-sound richness of the “Climb Every Mountain” finale was just one more reason to send the audience home with a special glow.
The Sound of Music will be performed at Nancy Bock Center for the Performing Arts twice today, first at a 2pm matinee, and again tonight at 8pm. For tickets and information call 936-273-3395, or visit the website at www.thewoodlandsrep.org.