Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Des Moines Playhouse

The Hills are Alive again this holiday season at The Des Moines Playhouse

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Des Moines Playhouse
Cast of "The Sound of Music"
Photo by Steve Gibbons

Growing up, there were two things I looked forward to being on TV each year, "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Sound of Music." The latter of these movies has become a holiday tradition on TV each year, including the return of live musical productions. So when Des Moines Playhouse was looking for a family classic to stage for the 2021/2022 season, it's not a surprise they turned to one of America's favorite musicals for their holiday show. "The Sound of Music" opened this last weekend, and I'm sure this production is going to become one of the Playhouses audience's favorite things.

If you haven't heard of "The Sound of Music," the show tells the story of Maria Rainer, a postulant in training to become a nun, who finds herself being sent to be a governess for seven children. When she arrives, she finds out the children are treated more like they are serving on one of the ships their father commanded, wearing uniforms and marching around the grounds. When she finds out the curtains in her room will be replaced, she makes the children some play clothes and teaches them a song to sing for the arriving Baroness, who the children's father will be marrying. When the Captain confronts her about breaking his orders for the house, they argue about the children, and Maria is asked to leave. All that changes when the Captain hears something. The sound of music. Something that he hasn't allowed in the house since his wife died. Will this cause the Captain to change his heart? You will have to attend "The Sound of Music" to find out.

I learned leading up to this production through the show's publicity that Maria married the Captain because of her love for the children. Director Katy Merriman beautifully takes this and makes sure that the children can be seen in each aspect of the production. When the curtain goes up for the show, you will notice at the front of the beautiful set designed by Nicholas Amundson, are the two large panels of fabric. While they may seem a little out of place at first, once you get to Maria's room, you realize it is the same fabric as the curtains her character uses to make the children's play clothes. This flows into Angela Lampe's costume design, which also pulls the audience's focus to the children. Having the curtains at the front of the stage allows the children's and Maria's costumes made from the same fabric to pop when they are on stage. The show was beautifully lit by Virgil Kleinhesselink, with props designed by Barbara McClintock.

I appreciated Merriman's casting of the show because she chose leads in Maria and the Captain, which had very different acting styles and singing voices. It played well into showing how different each character was at that point in their life. Jess Belch, who plays Maria Rainer, has a more modern musical theatre styling to her voice. It gives the character a more youthful feel, which lets the audience see how easy it would be for Maria to relate to and love the children in the show. This plays so well with Matthew Nicholson's Captain Georg Von Trapp. He has a more classically trained operatic voice. It's such a stark difference to others in the cast that it helps the audience get the sense of separation that the Captain has brought into his life with the loss of his wife. This makes for such a heartfelt moment when he starts to sing "The Sound of Music" reprise with the children that will bring a tear to everyone's eye in the theatre.

When people think about "The Sound of Music," the thing they probably think of most is the seven Von Trapp Children. The students cast in these roles, Sage Johnson, Ryan Henzi, Dawson Huinker, Caethen Stocker, Tatem Lowell, Vivan Rosalie Coleman, and Naomi Davidson, do an outstanding job bringing this family of children to life. They each have found ways to honor those that we have seen play these characters in the past while still making them their own, which is no small feat to accomplish.

Whether you're looking for a fresh take on a classic musical or a heartwarming story to start your holiday season, this production of "The Sound of Music" has you covered. From the fantastic direction, to the beautiful designs, to the outstanding cast, this production is sure to become one of your favorite things this holiday season. If you want to have your heart blessed with "The Sound of Music," performances will continue through December 19. To find out more about the show, or to purchase tickets, visit

Review was written by DC Felton

Follow BroadwayWorld for all the latest Des Moines Theatre News

Visit and like us on Twitter and Facebook @BWWDesMoines

City Circle Theatre Company Presents THE SECRET GARDEN IN CONCERT Photo
City Circle Theatre Company presents The Secret Garden - In Concert February 10, 11, & 12, 2023 at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 PM and the Sunday matinee is at 2 PM.

Winners Announced For The 2022 BroadwayWorld Des Moines Awards Photo
The winners have been announced for the 2022 BroadwayWorld Des Moines Awards, honoring the best in regional productions, touring shows, and more which had their first performance between October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022.

THE MITTEN Comes to Des Moines Playhouse in February Photo
The Mitten comes to Des Moines Playhouse next month. This is part of a series of Interactive Theatre Shows for Children Ages 4-6. The production is great for preschools, child care centers, kindergarten classes, and families.

KINKY BOOTS Comes to Des Moines Playhouse in March Photo
Kinky Boots comes to Des Moines Playhouse this spring! Performances run March 17 - April 2.

From This Author - DC Felton

David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)

December 11, 2022

One of everyone's favorite stories is coming to the stage at the Des Moines Playhouse to remind us that 'Impossible things are happening every day.' Everyone has memories of 'Cinderella,' whether it be the classic Disney movie or one of the many tv airings of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.' On December 2, Des Moines Playhouse opened their Family Holiday Classic production of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.' This production has everything audiences could hope for and a little more.

Review: SHE LOVES ME at Ankeny Community TheatreReview: SHE LOVES ME at Ankeny Community Theatre
December 9, 2022

What did our critic think ofIn 2006, I was introduced to a charming musical when I had the opportunity to be in a production at the college I attended. When Ankeny Community theatre announced their 2022/2023 season, I was ecstatic to see it would be included as part of their season. That delightful musical is 'She Loves Me.' Over the last few years, this musical has gained popularity with a revival on Broadway, including a live-streamed performance later shown on PBS as part of the Great Performances series. I can't think of a more fitting show with the holidays coming up. SHE LOVES ME at Ankeny Community Theatre?

Review: COME FROM AWAY at Des Moines Performing ArtsReview: COME FROM AWAY at Des Moines Performing Arts
November 24, 2022

In 2012 a little musical that could started its trek to Broadway. After a successful 2012 workshop at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, this show went to La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Its journey continued with stops at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC and the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto before arriving on Broadway in March 2017. When it opened on Broadway, it opened with a relatively unknown cast, but its story captured quickly captured the hearts of its audience. That show is 'Come From Away.' The tour is making its second stop in Des Moines from November 22-27 and is perfect for this Thanksgiving holiday.

Review: MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Tallgrass Theatre CompanyReview: MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Tallgrass Theatre Company
November 15, 2022

As the holiday season gets closer, theatres start bringing some of our favorite stories to the stage. That is no different for Tallgrass Theatre Company, which is offering a new take on a classic tale this holiday season.

Review: HARRIET THE SPY at Kate Goldman Children's Series at Des Moines PlayhouseReview: HARRIET THE SPY at Kate Goldman Children's Series at Des Moines Playhouse
November 3, 2022

Things are not always as they appear. As we grow older, we learn different ways to seek the truth. One thing we don't have to think about to worry about how they appear are shows that are part of the Kate Goldman's Children's Theatre series at Des Moines Playhouse. This last weekend they opened their Children's Theatre series with the classic 'Harriet the Spy,' which will run through November 13. However you are introduced to 'Harriet the Spy,' through the book, the movie, the streaming series, or the play, this production is one you will have to take a closer look at.