note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen THE SOUND OF MUSIC, you haven’t really seen it until you see Frank Roberts’ gorgeously shaped production at Reagle Players. And you only have through next weekend to do it.
Rogers and Hammerstein’s jewel of a musical (with an incomparable book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse) shines even more radiantly because Roberts includes the songs most productions leave out. Best of all, Roberts has Sarah Pfisterer as Maria. Pfisterer is luminous, funny and full of spunk as the novice who is sent as a nanny to reign in seven unruly children. And Reagle snagged John Davidson to play the stuffed shirt of a Captain who defies the Nazis and falls for Maria.
Davidson leads with a firm jaw for most of the show--- until he melts every heart in the theater (I saw critics with hankies!) with his tender, moving tribute to his fallen homeland. The Nazis may have thought he was singing a folk song about a flower, but Davidson brought home the metaphor in a pianissimo coup. The real Maria Von Trapp wanted Rogers and Hammerstein to use genuine Austrian folk songs instead of their own. Aren’t we glad they held their ground.
Paul Katz and Dan Rodriguez’ musical arrangements make Rogers’ exquisite score sound like a Bach cantata (under Jeffrey Leonard’s sure baton). Jenny Lynn Stewart delivers a “Climb Every Mountain” with all the reverence and conviction of a diva performing an oratorio. Rogers’ choral fantasy for the Sisters of Nonnberg Abbey is beautifully realized at Reagle into a triumphant “Gaudeamus.”
Roberts makes the script even more resonant by playing up the humanity of the supporting characters: Sylvia Rhyne manages to make the aristocratic widow who has set her sights on the Captain sympathetic, believe it or not. How refreshing to see an elegant woman who doesn’t hate children instead of a caricature. Bob Freschi, too, makes Max more than comic relief and a sell-out for a high ranking job in the Reich.
Roberts touches the humanity in each nun, as well, so that we know Marian Rambelle’s Sister Berthe frowns on Maria’s lapses but isn’t out to ruin the girl—and we delight in Rachelle Riehl’s enthusiastic support of Maria’s high spirits.
What fun it is watching the pint-sized actors misbehave as the Von Trapp children. All seven know their theatrical stuff, but tiny Charlotte Horan steals the show as the wise-well-beyond-her-years Brigitta, whose clever little insights actually move the story along, a large responsibility for such small shoulders. Something about this production, above others I’ve seen, elevates it to a higher plane: You leave feeling you’ve had a spiritual, as well as a crack theatrical experience. It’s no accident Lindsay and Crouse have the Abbess quote Isaiah at the thrilling conclusion of the story. When we see the family set off into the hills, we know they will be “led forth with peace” …and I thought I actually heard those trees that surround the theater “clap their hands.”