The Sound of Music, the last musical written by the illustrious duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is receiving a shimmering production at the Ivoryton Playhouse. There are a few problems, but the overall presentation will satisfy any musical theater fan.
The book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, can be somewhat schmaltzy and is old-fashioned, but in a pleasing manner.
A quick look at the story for audience members not familiar with the plot - The show opens at the Nonnberg Abbey, near Salzburg, Austria. We are introduced to Maria, a postulate and free-spirit at the nunnery. She loves to sing, and her rambunctious character doesn’t necessarily fit within a religious environment. Sent off for a temporary assignment to be the governess for Captain von Trapp, a widower with seven children, she quickly charms her charges as well as the stoic captain. Complications arise. The stately Baroness Elsa Schrader has her eyes on marrying the former naval officer. Making matters worse, Nazi Germany is beginning to make forays into the country, threatening to disrupt the tranquility of everyday life.
At the beginning of Act II, the Captain and Baroness have broken off their engagement. Maria and the Captain are now free to acknowledge their love for each other and marry. Upon returning from their honeymoon the former high ranking military officer is about to be forced to take command of the German naval forces or face dire consequences. To avoid the unwanted conscription, the von Trapp family plan an escape after performing in the annual Kaltzburg singing festival, which is organized by family friend Max Detweiler. Their course of action works and after hiding out from the approaching Nazis in the Abbey, the family makes their getaway over the mountains to Switzerland.
The music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II is one of their most memorable. Within the first 15 minutes of the show audiences have already been treated to the title number, “Maria,” and my “Favorite Things.” Before the end of Act I there is the additional musical treats of "Do-Re-Mi,” Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” The Lonely Goatherd, “So Long, Farewell,” and “Climb Ev'ry Mountain.” At the end of the show is the beautifully rendered “Edelweiss.” Patrons will have a hard time holding back from singing along with all the iconic numbers.
For The Sound of Music to be a success, the musical needs a performer playing Maria who is buoyant with an infectious peronna and a dynamic voice. The actress Adrianne Hick more than fits the bill. Her energy and gusto infuse the production. Most of the best loved songs in the show have been written for her character. Ms. Hick is also a convincing actress, whether being called upon for her exuberance or toning down her zest for more reflective or contemplative moments.
While David Pittsinger has a deep resonating singing voice, he comes across as too old for the role of Captain von Trapp. His stolid characterization, while fitting for his detached romancing of Beverly J. Ricci’s Baroness, doesn’t jive with the courting of the younger Maria.
Noteworthy members of the supporting cast include Connecticut favorite R. Bruce Connelly as the wheeler dealer Max Detweiler. The actor’s straightforward approach and jaunty humor add an earnestness to the show. Patricia Schuman is a fine Mother Abbess whose operatic voice is very impressive especially with the Act I closer “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” The seven children - Kaiya Colquhoun, Taya Diggs, Lily McIntyre, Allsdair McLaren, Emma Needleman, Parker Grey Nelson, and Viviana Velasquez - worked well as a unit, at times rebellious, vulnerable and silly. Special mention goes to Lily McIntyre who portrays the eldest child, Liesl; and Viviana Velasquez as Marta.
Director Jacqueline Hubbard’s staging is inconsistent, but does not take away from the overall entertainment of the musical. She receives kudos for shepherding a total of 14 children and young adults through the show as the von Trapp kids (each role is double cast). But some scenes fall short in their dramatic thrust and the pacing of the production is occasionally toneless. The Sound of Music is not a dance show, but Choreographer Francasca Webster provides some diverting steps to enhance songs.
Scenic Designer Cully Long has crafted a basic, multi-functional set that is easily reconfigured to the numerous scenes required for the show, even if some scene changeovers take a tad too long.
Lighting Designer Marcus Abbott bathes the production in a pastoral lighting scheme. Costume Designer Kate Bunce has constructed clothing that are representative of Bavarian wear. Her outfits from the discarded curtains are whimsical and charming.
The Sound of Music, playing at the Ivoryton Playhouse through July 30. Click here for dates, times and ticket information.