BWW Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Asolo Rep
The Asolo Repertory Theatre is starting the 2019-2020 season off with a marvelous rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music." Any time you go to see a classic piece of musical theatre your past experiences and schema come into play. Expectations are high (or low) based upon what you think you know about the show. It can be difficult to change those perceptions and to not see what you expect to happen. While the songs and storyline are timeless as ever, Asolo's version, which is spectacular on many levels, offers you a new perspective that will make you feel like you are watching the show for the very first time.
I love all (well most) genres of musical theatre. I can watch a show for the pure artistic value even if its core message and content do not align with my personal belief system. However, as an educator of youth theatre, productions like "The Sound of Music" make my heart full and inspire me in so many different ways. The show is family friendly with a pure and honest message. Director and Choreographer Josh Rhodes has assembled a family that may not look like the von Trapp family you visualize, yet they bring forth the love, passion and integrity that makes these characters so special. Rhodes' work is nothing short of outstanding and lays a foundation and standard of excellence that will rival any other production of this show you have seen before. In addition, the technical team creates incredible visual stimulation that will wow your senses. Every detail of the set design, lighting and costumes not only enhances the production but takes the show to places that envelops its audience.
The cast is a unique blend of strength and innocence. They display their characters with power and warmth at the same time. Character development and the understanding of one's purpose on stage often may seem simple to an audience member but the actor's portrayal of each role and the technique by which they make it their own is often the difference between good and great when it comes to show production. To this end, the cast does not disappoint. Maddie Shea Baldwin plays one of every female performer's dream roles, Maria Rainer. Baldwin lights up the stage with her smile and captivates her audience with her voice. Her gentle spirit towards the von Trapp family is never diminished by the passion she displays for what she believes is right. The genuine love she displays for the children in her care makes us all wish we had a Governess like Maria when we were growing up. She is confident and her poise never wavers. Baldwin's vocal strength is steadfast, but it is the songs she sings with the von Trapp children that allow you to truly see the incredible talent Baldwin possess. She doesn't just look like the perfect Maria, she is the perfect Maria.
The Captain is magnificently played by Tally Sessions. The role for many is difficult to perform as the complexity of the character and inner struggles of the Captain are often difficult to accurately convey to those watching the story. However, Sessions is nothing short of spectacular as the bitter and isolated father who overcomes his pain to remember the love he has for his children as well as his call to his core beliefs. This revelation is aided by his love for Maria and the love and affection she has for him. Sessions brings a perfect balance of emotions to his role. As you watch the development of his character, you can't help but be moved at his transformation as well as the raw emotion displayed he displays during "Edelweiss."
Liz McCartney who plays Mother Abbess will make you stand to your feet and want to hang from the rafters. McCartney is simply amazing. When she sings "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" you need it to be intermission just so you can catch your breath. She serves as the voice of reason and absolute guidance to Maria. She is truly a mother to Maria in so many ways and is an integral part to the strong, vibrant young woman that Maria has become. The connection of these two characters is paramount to the story and Mother Abbess is flawless as she enhances the leading lady.
Kate Loprest (Baroness Elsa Schraeder) and Nick Locilento (who was on as Max Detweiler) were fantastic compliments to the those surrounding them. Each carefully navigated their outside role of the family while at the same time provided us with some of the key comedic and dramatic moments that make the story unfold. Both delivered passionate performances that helped complete this magnificent cast.
"Sound of Music" would not be the musical it is without the von Trapp children. Sophie Lee Morris as Liesl, Judah Immanuel as Friedrich, Tyler Gevas as Kurt, Sophia Caballuzzi as Brigitta, Raina Lynn Khatami as Louisa, Allie McLaughlin as Marta and Cora Messer as Gretl all bring an energy to the stage that captivates you throughout the show. The dynamics each displayed helped to create a synergy that demonstrated the true strength of this family which is love. Their versatility especially in their ability to portray the emotions needed in the show's final scene is a true credit to their talent as young performers.
I attended this show with my teenage son who had never seen the musical before. As the final curtain went down and he rose to his feet to give a standing ovation, he simply said "Dad, that was good!" It just goes to show even the most classic of shows can still become a favorite for generations to come.
The "Sound of Music" runs through December 28. Tickets and more information can be found at www.asolorep.org