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Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse

A beautiful story performed by a talented cast in a simple but immensely effective staging through December 18th.

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse Behind the spectacle, sets, large casts and costumes of many classic musicals are the relatable, human stories, the conflict, the hope and the pure joy of life. Often, however, as audience members we don't see those things as clearly when distracted by falling chandeliers or giant dance numbers. But there is something emotionally raw and fulfilling when given the chance to see a story you know so well stripped down to its essence - exposing the beauty that has always been there. This was my experience seeing Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse - a beautiful story performed by a talented cast in a simple but immensely effective staging.

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse The familiar tale is there - It's Austria, 1938, and young postulant from Nonnberg Abbey, Maria Rainer (Dayja Le'Chelle) is sent by Mother Abbess (Cherry Gonzalez) to be governess to the Von Trapp family. There at the Von Trapp estate, Maria falls in love with the seven Von Trapp children and eventually for their stern father, Captain Georg Von Trapp (Sean Powell), much to the chagrin of the sophisticated and wealthy Elsa Schrader (Christie Duffer) and the captain's friend Max (Aidan Wamsley). All this exposition takes place under the shadow of the impending Anschluss of Austria by the Nazis - an event that is foreshadowed in the opening moments of the play - and the impact it can and does have on the Von Trapps and their livelihood.

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse There is not much I can say about THE SOUND OF MUSIC that hasn't been said already over the last 60+ years since its opening on Broadway in 1959. It is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most well-known, and beloved musicals, not in the least because of the classic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews. Richard Rodgers' music is glorious, Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics are among his most inspiring and the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse is lean, effective and solid. And for those who may only be familiar with the film, you may be surprised to hear familiar songs in new (but original) places in the story, songs sung by Elsa and Max and a critical change in the final moments of the story that provides some glimmer of hope for humanity (and young love).

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse As noted, the staging of THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse is pared back from what you might have seen on stage before. In its small, black box space it would be impossible to create an Austrian Abbey, or the palatial Von Trapp estate. But I am here to tell you, that while those things are lovely to see, they are not missed once the performances begin and the story unfolds. Director Mark Ferrera has done a brilliant job using the sparse setting to great effect - a few benches (that also stand in for lovely stained-glass windows), some effective stairs and a few other set pieces is all that is needed to set the scene, and the wonderfully talented cast takes it from there. The striking opening title song finds Maria not spinning carefree on an Austrian mountainside but bringing order to the chaos of war - a marvelous foreshadowing of what is to come. But more importantly, this inspired opening illustrates the role Maria plays bringing light and love into those dark times (and into the lives of the Von Trapps who are languishing due to the death of their mother and the captain's wife).

TSP's THE SOUND OF MUSIC has a small but extremely talented cast who bring this story to life on stage. Leading the charge is the lovely Dayja Le'Chelle who imbues Maria with a sense of wonder but also a steady hand. Her vocals are beautiful and she is a thrill to watch as she quickly becomes the heart of the Von Trapp family. As Captain Von Trapp, Sean Powell is stalwart and reserved, but when his icy exterior is finally broken (in a beautiful and emotional moment that Mr. Powell conveys brilliantly) we get to see (and hear) a father who once was lost, but has now woken up to his family and duty. Christie Duffer and Aidan Wamsley are a great duo as Elsa and Max - and are more oblivious (or purposefully ignorant) of the troubles that are coming than often portrayed. Their two songs (cut from the film, but two of my favorites) "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It" help provide a deeper understanding of their characters and motivations - and are fun to watch too. Cherry Gonzalez gives the audience a Mother Abbess who is firm but quite obviously a believer in Maria and her vocals in "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" soar. And last, but not least, the children - as a group are a joy to watch perform, their expressions and performances overflowing with excitement. Sara Diaz as eldest child, Liesl and Joel Hunt as her young suitor, Rolf, give a particularly energetic and heartwarming performance of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen"

Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Theatre South Playhouse The creative team for THE SOUND OF MUSIC does a fantastic job elevating the story through their simple, but extremely effective designs. Sterling Lovett's choreography is lovely, especially the dance during the end of the first act and the energetic family numbers featuring the Von Trapps. Justin Adams does a great job as music director, nurturing fantastic vocals from the cast and along with Justin Smolik plays the gorgeous score on two effective pianos. Hillary Brook's costumes are fabulous - especially the Von Trapp's period and geographically appropriate "curtain" clothing and Natalie Paige Estes' Lighting and Wendell Rivera Diaz' Sound designs punctuate the most emotional moments effectively, especially in the opening moments of the play (the use of authentic radio broadcasts from the period are particularly inspired).

Overall, Theatre South Playhouse's THE SOUND OF MUSIC is, as director Mark Ferrera notes in the program "not your grandfather's Sound of Music". It is an honest, real, sometimes raw, but extremely effective story, balanced in a way that ensures the joy and beauty of the story comes through loud and clear. And through familiar songs and performances - a human story emerges about real people facing real struggles during a dark time in our history - but through the love of one another and yes, the sound of music, hope reigns supreme.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC, presented by Theatre South Playhouse, runs through December 18th. Tickets range from $32 to $42. Performances take place at Theatre South Playhouse which is located in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Drive, Suite #15, Orlando, FL 32819. Tickets can be purchased by visiting®id=78& For more information about Theatre South Playhouse visit

All Photos by Theatre South Playhouse

Lead Photo: Dayja Le'Chelle, Sean Powell and the Children

Top Photo: Delainey Silvestro, Jacquelyn Salisbury, Jake Gatsby Reid, Lilly Scarlett Reid, Sydeny Francis, Luke Young, Sara Diaz

Mid Photo 1: Samantha Brooks, Cherry Gonzalez, Amy Jordan

Mid Photo 2: Sean Powell, Dayja Le'Chelle, Aidan Wamsley, Stephen Lima and the Children Von Trapp

Mid Photo 3: Joel Hunt and Sara Diaz

Bottom Photo: Dayja Le'Chelle, Sean Powell and the Children Von Trapp

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From This Author - Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison has been involved with the theatre in some form or fashion all his life. He holds a Journalism degree from the University of Georgia, but his true love is the theatre which he has b... (read more about this author)

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