BWW Reviews: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the Huron Country Playhouse Will Be One of Your 'Favourite Things!'


The 2013 Season of Drayton Entertainment's Huron Country Playhouse opens in a delightful way with Rodgers and Hammerstein's loveable classic: THE SOUND OF MUSIC! With some of the most beloved songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein repertoire performed beautifully, and a well-known story told with spunk, freshness, and plenty of heart-it is very likely that THE SOUND OF MUSIC will be one of Grand Bend's "favourite things" this season!

THE SOUND OF MUSIC-a beloved family musical known to many as a 1965 Robert Wise film, got its start on the Broadway stage in 1959. It is the story of Maria Rainer, a free-spirited young novice at the Nonnberg Abbey in Austria, who finds herself assigned to be the governess to 7 children in the strict household of former Navy Sea Captain, Georg von Trapp. Bringing music to the household, Maria helps the family to grow closer. In the process she learns more about herself and her own true calling. Set within the physical backdrop of the Swiss Alps and the political backdrop of the on-slot of the second World War, and featuring classic music such as "The Sound of Music", "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", and "My Favorite Things", THE SOUND OF MUSIC offers an equally intriguing and sentimental story that audiences young and old will enjoy.

As with any film adaptation, changes need to be made when bringing a musical from the stage to the screen. Considering many view THE SOUND OF MUSIC to be among the best film adaptations of a musical ever made, and considering the movie is a staple in many a household, seeing the show in its original medium might cause an initial shock for some people who can recite the movie line for line. This reviewer is admittedly one of those people-and the first time I saw a stage production, it took a few scenes to get used to numbers being performed at different times, as well as a (necessary) difference in the overall pacing of the show. This time, I was prepared, and was curious to see how the opening night audience reacted. Though a few heads initially turned to look at each other when "My Favourite Things" was performed whilst Maria was still at the Abbey, the audience was hardly phased by any differences, and instead just seemed to be completely immersed in a much-loved story, performed by a fabulous cast.

As Maria, the would-be-nun with the voice of an angel, Jayme Armstrong shines. Bringing a youthful spunk to the role, she quickly endears herself to the audience. Those who watched CBC's "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria" a few years back, will get a thrill out of seeing this former finalist get to embody this beloved character at last.

Also delightful is David W. Keeley, as Captain von Trapp-the hardened Naval Officer with a heart of gold, trying to maintain his values and integrity in the face of a Nazi takeover of his beloved Austria. His emotion during the family's performance of "Edelweiss" in the moments leading up to their escape from the Nazis is incredibly touching.

Tess Benger is excellent as 'no-need-for-a-governess (...well maybe I do)', Liesl, the eldest von Trapp child who is on the verge of growing up and is forced to experience the pangs of young love during a tumultuous political and social time. As her well-intended, but easily impressionable love interest, Rolf, Gregory Pember is also excellent. The pair's rendition of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" is breezy and fun-allowing the audience to reminisce about their own first loves, and the feeling of excitement, hope, and possibility that go along with it.

I don't know how Director and Choreographer, Tim French did it, but he managed to wrangle up the most adorable children that exist on the planet. These child actors also happen to be incredibly talented! Little Lilly Bartlam as Gretl keeps the audience in the palm of her hand! Her real life sister, Anna Bartlam plays Marta von Trapp, and is equally as adorable and talented. Claire Jones-Fright is well cast as the curious and observant Brigitta, Gabriel Sizeland is great as the strong, yet sensitive young Kurt, Aveleigh Keller plays Louisa with a sparkle in her eye and a lovely singing voice, and Peter Jones brings both the maturity and humor needed to play eldest son Friedrich.

As Mother Abbess, Rebecca Poff is fabulous in the show-stopping "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" to end Act I. Mother Abbess is a more fleshed out character in the stage version of this musical, and audiences are sure to enjoy Ms. Poff's portrayal.

Sure to put a smile on your face, is Keith Savage as sneaky, self-interested, good guy, 'uncle Max' Detweiller, and Jill Diane Filion was also a crowd favourite as Baroness Elsa Schrader.

Rounding out the cast are Stuart Dowling as Herr Zeller, Susan Johnston Collins as Frau Schmidt, David Talbot, as Franz, and William Vickers, Kevin Morris, Trevor Patt, Jayne Lewis, Jade Repeta, Karen Wood, Karen K. Edissi, and Christina Gordon, in the ensemble. There is not a weak link in this production, and the entire cast should be praised for such an excellent display of talent. Musical director Steve Thomas should also be praised for bringing some of the most beloved songs to life!

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a real delight, and an excellent way to spend some quality time with family and friends! The audience is sure to walk out singing!

THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs through June 22nd at the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. For more information, contact Drayton Entertainment at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866) or visit online.

Photo Credit: Darlene O'Rourke Photography

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