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Review: SOUND OF MUSIC at Palm Canyon Theatre

Rogers and Hammerstein's Beloved Family Classic

Review: SOUND OF MUSIC at Palm Canyon Theatre

It's hard to imagine a more perfect holiday show than Sound of Music, and Palm Canyon Theatre's current production of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical should come complete with a large gift bow!

After a prologue of nun's chanting, we are whisked away to the Austrian Alps by way of a very effective projection by set designer J. W. Layne. There, we discover Maria (Se Layne), singing "The Sound of Music" as she twirls and cavorts over the hills that have been her lifetime playground. We return to the abbey where the nuns have noticed that Maria is missing from vespers, causing them to sing, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Mother Superior decides that Maria should take a position as governess to a local landowner's seven children, and we all know where that leads her.

The first act's songs are like a wonderful juke box including "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" and "The Lonely Goatherd." One beloved hit after another.

The Von Trapp children are always crowd pleasers, and the current charmers include Mia Alexander, A J Fernandez, Dayanra Huerta, Ryan Rodriguez, Reagan Kaminsky, Alice Steepleton, and Audrey Steepleton. Derik Shopinski's costumes - including matching outfits made from the curtains we see hanging in Maria's room early in Act 1 - make the kids even cuter.

A significant re-casting occurred in the week before opening, but director/choreographer Se Layne stepped into the role of Maria and was a joy to watch. Jaci Davis was also delightful as Mother Superior, and her rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" ended Act 1 on an emotional high.

Keith Alexander played Captain Von Trapp. He has previously won our hearts with his turns in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown and Shrek. His house servants, Michele Davis and Chuck Swenson did outstanding jobs of making possible throwaway characters into strong individuals. Sam Schwartz, previously ensemble, was elevated to the role of Rolf, the 18-year-old telegraph boy when the cast changed just before opening. He might have been a bit over 18, but handled the task well.

A real delight for me was Virginia Sulick who stepped in as Elsa Schrader, the baroness who is intended as the wife of Captain Von Trapp. Her characterization and singing were both strong, and her ritzy costumes looked terrific. Her scenes with the Captain's friend, Max (ably played by Sheldon Safir) were very enjoyable. Paul Grant was delightfully hateful as a Nazi neighbor.

J. W. Layne's set designs were very attractive and effective. He made good use of projections for the downstage scenes, projecting onto a curtain right at the proscenium for the hills, the abbey, outdoors, etc. The Captain's mansion was further upstage and changed from indoors to outdoors while scenes were being played downstage.

Maestro Steven Smith stepped in at a late moment to handle the musical director chores, leading the show from the piano. He was joined by David Bronson on drums, Larry Holloway on bass, and newcomer Lee Wolfe on violin.

Sound of Music plays through December 19 with Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Palm Canyon Theatre is centrally located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive at the corner of Alejo. For tickets or more information, phone 760-323-5123 or visit

Note, there will be a very special Christmas concert on Wednesday night, December 15, at 7 p.m. It will include a toy and food drive for Toys for Tots and Food Bank. Many of your favorite theatre stars will be donating their time and skills for the fundraiser, and it will be a great way to share the holiday spirit with friends. $25 tickets for adults and $15 for students and children can be purchased through the box office or at the door on the night.

Photo by Paul Hayashi

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