BWW Reviews: Hale Centre Theatre's THE SOUND OF MUSIC Is A Finely Crafted Family Delight

From the moment that Brandi Bigley graces the stage, she embodies the sound of music, the sonorous voice of the Austrian Alps, the comforting governess that every child would want, and the vibrant heart of a musical that has transfixed and charmed audiences for half a century.

Bigley's heartwarming portrayal of Maria in Hale Center Theatre's polished production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is laced with nuance ~ and a rich voice! From the mischievous and mercurial explorer of the Nonnberg Abbey and its surrounding hills ("a flibbertijibbet, a will o-the wisp, a clown") to the caretaker that shakes up the stern von Trapp household, from the woman in love to the protective mother who schemes the exit from the ominous threats of the Nazi invaders ~ at every turn, Bigley convincingly engages the audience in her odyssey to freedom.

The story of the Sound of Music is too well known to relate it in detail. Of greater relevance is what the Hale Center cast, directed by D. Scott Withers, does to enliven this classic and bring it home.

Maria is a square peg in the round hole of the Abbey. The question of whether this postulant has a future as a nun is resolved by the worldly-wise and faith-anchored Mother Abbess who exhorts Maria to go out into the world to discover what is expected of her. In a tender and uplifting moment of inspiration after Maria's return to the Abbey, Carrie Klofach, who wears her habit well as the Mother Abbess, does something unique and beautiful with Climb Every Mountain. Where some have chosen to deliver the song as a self-standing aria, Klofach sings this hymn to hope and aspiration as a melodic and moving conversation piece with clarity of tone and authenticity of emotion.

Once Maria arrives at Captain von Trapp's estate to oversee his seven children, the good news is that Ms. Bigley is joined by a bevy of talent. Rob Stuart is commanding, stern, and inevitably vulnerable as Captain George von Trapp; Brandon Zale, dashing and witty as the self-serving Max Detweiller who enters the family in the fateful Kaltzberg Music Festival; Laura Pyper, elegant and stoic as Elsa Schräder, the Captain's almost significant other. Heather Fallon, Lynanne Cottle, and Heather Gahagan are delightful and harmonious as the sisters of the Abbey.

Then, there is [energetic round of applause, please!] the endearing and remarkable septet of young actors who portray the von Trapp children. They take to the stage in song and movement as if they were born in it. You feel their emotion when Maria is gone; you share their delight when she returns; you rejoice in their reprises of Do-Re-Mi and So Long, Farewell. They each deserve mention: Jacqueline Brecker (Liesl); Dale Mortensen (Friedrich); Macy LeCheminant (Louisa); Austin Porter (Kurt); Sydney Del Fosse (Brigitta); Amy Dubin (Marta); and Kathleen Jensen (Gretl).

If there is any shortcoming, it is that the role of the sinister Nazi official, Herr Zeller, is underplayed. There's a lack of the necessary arrogance and menace that should define his ominous presence and that would explain and enhance the urgency and bittersweetness of the family's farewell to their beloved country, Edelweiss.

This joyful and uplifting production continues through November 29th.

Photo credit to Nick Woodward-Shaw

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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