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BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Des Moines Playhouse

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

BWW 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 https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/the-sound-of-music/

Review was written by DC Felton

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