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BWW Review: Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre Presents THE SOUND OF MUSIC


The production, directed by Trisha Ditsworth, runs through December 19th at the venue located in Scottsdale Fashion Square.

BWW Review: Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre Presents 

At the moment that the ten nuns of Nonnberg Abbey file on stage, intoning a capella selected verses from the Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109), the Desert Stages theater converts into a chapel of harmonies. The irony of this placid and reverential scene is that it is followed by the frantic search for Maria, an errant postulant who is meanwhile singing her praises to the hills of Alpine Austria.

This is the THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that is now front and center as Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre's seasonal offering.

BWW Review: Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre Presents 

One of the joys of covering community theatre is observing local talents bloom over time, giving it their all for friends and family, for the community of musical lovers...and for the occasional reviewer. It is this kind of stage presence and energy that permeates this production.

The show is directed by Trisha Ditsworth, herself a maven of the Maria role and an exemplar of an artist that has emerged as one of the Valley's most versatile performers.

(Footnote: In 2019, Trisha portrayed Maria in The Phoenix Theatre Company's production. At that time, I noted that "this artist, in one role after another (from Mary Poppins to Sister Mary Robert), has demonstrated impressive versatility and range, enough to be regarded as one of the brightest lights of this region's musical theatre." Then, I was merely echoing what I'd already observed in her stellar performance as Maria in Arizona Broadway Theatre's 2013 production.)

Having played the role at least twice and to great acclaim, Ms. Ditsworth has taken her accumulated experience and insights and gifted the cast with a keen perspective on the musical's possibilities and the choices for character development.

Melissa Solomon brings crystalline soprano vocals and poise to her role as the mercurial Maria in search of purpose. The order may see her as "a flibbertijibbet, a will o-the wisp, a clown," but, while, at the outset of the story, she may be played to that description, Solomon's Maria is more nuanced. We meet a young woman sincerely seeking the answer to whom she owes fidelity ~ struggling to balance the holy with the secular. She requires only the right encouragement and circumstances to realize the spirit and courage that resides within her.

It takes the pragmatic Mother Abbess (Mary Jane McCloskey) to recognize her postulant's dilemma and to compel her to go out into the world (Climb Every Mountain) to discover what God expects of her. It is in the von Trapp household and her role as a governess of the Captain's seven children that Maria discovers the answers to her riddle.

As Captain George von Trapp, Mark Stoddard softens the portrayal of the character, rendering him more sympathetic and accessible. Yes, he is the widowed disciplinarian, compensating for his loss with domestic formalities and a harsh whistle. But, in Stoddard's hands, the military bearing is offset by a veneer of vulnerability that makes his connection with Maria all the more convincing. (But then, who wouldn't be enchanted by someone smart and bold enough to turn drapes into clothing!)

So far, and straight on through, smart directorial choices!

Matthew Harris is a source of comic relief as the cheeky and self-serving Max Detweiler ~ and a haunting reminder today of the risks and sacrifices that come with accommodating to tyranny. Alexandra Utpadel is engaging as the snarky and stylish Baroness Elsa Schräder who, despite her best efforts to upstage Maria, will lose the wedding ring to the governess. Carlos Sanchez Beltran and Brady Anderson give harsh voice to the arrogant and menacing agents of the Third Reich. Bennett Allen Wood presents Rolf as a deservedly less likable lad ~ the young man who falls in love with Liesl, the Captain's oldest daughter, but is lured away by the siren song of the Reich.

Then, of course, there are the young treasures of the cast, the von Trapp children ~ each endearing in their own way. Given that SDST theatre has double-cast the children's roles (save for that of Liesl), enthusiastic shout-outs go to the following delightful members of the Blue Cast: Jena Allen (Liesl); Zach Phelps (Friedrich); Kalyani Bhatnagar (Louisa); Michael Jaramillo (Kurt); Rachel Thaler (Brigitta); Serena Shorey (Marta); and Delaney Carne (Gretl).

The bottom line: Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre's production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is refreshing and entertaining holiday fare for the entire family.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs through December 19th.

Photo credit to SDST

Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre ~ Scottsdale Fashion Square, Suite #0586, 7014 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, AZ ~ ~ 480-483-1664

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