Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Musicals At Richter

starring a phenomenal cast

By: Jul. 24, 2022
Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Musicals At Richter

On Saturday, July 23rd, I had the pleasure of seeing a truly first-rate production, a phenomenal performance of one of the greatest musicals ever written! Musicals at Richter, in Danbury, continues with their legacy of providing audiences what we yearn for in live theater, the right shows with the right cast. Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC was the perfect show to see outdoors on this lovely July night. Under the excellent direction of Jessica Smith, musical direction of Adam Snyder, and choreography of Lindsay Miller, this stellar cast truly made the hills come alive, on this new stage featuring a stunning set designed by John McMahon, complete with moveable pieces. The cast members radiate positive energy from the stage, truly entertaining the audience, and having fun playing their roles!

For those not familiar with the storyline, it is set in 1938 Austria. Maria has not yet taken her vows as a nun, and as a result of her restlessness is asked to take a temporary leave and work for widowed Captain Von Trapp, caring for his seven children, ages sixteen and under. Maria brings music and singing into the lives of the children, children who come to really like her, as she does to them. Maria soon develops romantic feelings towards Captain Von Trapp, feelings that if reciprocated and developed into a marriage would prevent Maria from becoming a nun. This potential love conflict is exacerbated by the fact that Captain Von Trapp is in a courtship with another woman, the Baroness. Meanwhile, as the Nazi regime infiltrates Austria and insists that Austrians join them in acting, thinking, feeling, and speaking like a Nazi, while waving the Nazi flag, the Nazis set their sights on demanding that Captain Von Trapp joins their navy. Captain Von Trapp, being a loyal Austrian who respects Austria as Austria, not as being under Nazi infiltration, wants no part of the Nazi agenda, but is he free to be himself and act upon his own beliefs and convictions without jeopardizing his life and the lives of his children? Come to the show to find out!

I tremendously enjoyed the familiar musical numbers, such as "The Sound of Music," "Do-Re-Mi," "Maria," "So Long, Farewell," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "The Lonely Goatherd," "Edelweiss," "Climb Every Mountain," and my favorite from this musical, "My Favorite Things." The excellent singing of this cast is enhanced by a talented live band.

Emily Walsh stars as Maria, dazzling the audience with her amazing singing voice and powerful acting that draws the audience in, connecting with this central protagonist. Rob Mayette, as Captain Von Trapp, has an excellent voice and stage presence and truly commands the role when on stage. Rob Mayette and Emily Walsh play off each other very well creating a feeling of authenticity to their dynamics with each other, and with the children and other cast members. Their strong performances epitomize what these roles are and how they are meant to be played to maximize the greatness of the show!

Claire Simard brings quality to the challenging role of the Baroness, showing that with the right actress, this deliberately dislikeable antagonist can still have pizzazz. Christopher Hetherington brings authenticity to Max Detweiler, a rather shady character with dubious motives.

The seven children are magnificently portrayed by cast members who gel together so well that it is easy for the audience to forget that these performers are not real life siblings. Jillian Flynn leads the siblings as Liesl, the highly likeable eldest (sixteen going on seventeen.) The other siblings include Austin Etzbach as Friedrich, Gabby Messina as Louisa, Jack Rand as Kurt, Allyson Snyder as Brigitta, Kelly Inconstanti as Marta and Charlotte Harrington as Gretl. All seven cast members bring quality and distinction to their specific characters, making their roles count, both as individuals and as a collective group! Each of these Von Trapp children has a unique personality while each of these cast members brings that personality out. They also harmonize well, and dance with precise synchronicity. The coordination they display with each other makes their musical numbers extremely impressive to watch, on many levels.

Priscilla Squiers shines is the role of Mother Abbess, with soprano vocals that are perfect for all her solos. Cathy Cavender, Stacey Snyder, and Daisy Stott enhance the production in their respective roles of Sister Margaretta, Sister Berthe, and Sister Sophia.

Vincent Fontenelli is convincing as Liesl's love interest Rolf. Elizabeth Czarsty and Robert Fontenelli also bring life to their roles as the housekeeper Frau Schmidt, and Franz, the Butler, respectively.

Ensemble roles enhance this show, as well. Like the leads, the ensemble performers also appear to be having fun on stage, greatly enjoying being part of this phenomenal production. These cast members include Jacquelynn Matchen, Paul Matchen, Rachelle Matchen, Tyler Wolfson, Rachel Volpe, Dolly Conner, Melisa Garcia, Beth McGuire, Amanda Thomas, April Smith, Molly Tarnowski, and Renėe Browne. They make their roles count.

Beyond the romantic love story between Captain Von Trapp and Maria, I feel that this show sends extremely positive messages that are just as relevant in modern America, as they were in 1938 Austria. In this show, those who put their trust in God and His love are portrayed as the good people, as they should be. Those who boldly take a stand for the righteous truth that they believe in and refuse to be corrupted or manipulated are portrayed as heroes and positive role models, which they are. Conversely, hostile regimes that infiltrate countries' governments and oppressively try to destroy national identities by controlling what the citizens can legally do, say, think, or even feel are portrayed as the villains, as they should be portrayed. Furthermore, those who conform to the demands of those hostile government regimes are viewed as sell-outs, traitors, and cowards, as they are. The boundaries are clear between right and wrong, between good and evil, and between courage and cowardice. The former things are extolled while the latter things are rebuked.

Musicals at Richter follows the positive example set by this show in that they have chosen a beloved classic with positive messages, and have recruited a truly talented cast and crew to make this show thrive with excellence! It is so refreshing to see a theater company that has stuck true to themselves, true to their patrons, and true to what makes for excellent live entertainment.

I highly recommend THE SOUND OF MUSIC which is scheduled to continue to run through August 6th. For times and tickets, please go to Tickets.