LaSalle Players opening show of their season is Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music". Based on Maria Von Trapp's autobiography "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers'', the show takes place in Austria in 1938 and tells the story of Maria Rainer, a free-spirited postulant who is hired by Captain Georg Von Trapp to care for his seven children. Although the Captain is engaged to a wealthy socialite, he and Maria eventually fall in love and marry but their happiness is soon shattered when the Nazis annex Austria and they are forced to escape to America. The original show opened on Broadway on November 16, 1959, starred Mary Martin and ran for 1443 performances becoming the second longest running show of the 1950's. The highly successful movie with Julie Andrews opened in 1965 and is shown yearly on television. Director Thomas Haynes casts this show beautifully with topnotch students. The story is still poignant and moving after all these years and these kids obtain a well deserved standing ovation for their powerful rendition of this well known show.
He blocks the show beautifully on a unit set with furniture pieces easily moved on and off stage. Especially impressive is the nuns staging and the children and concert scenes with the most draining one being the final tableau of the Trapp family climbing the mountain into Switzerland. He infuses his cast with the energy to pull off these roles. Musical direction by Jeff Allard is fantastic especially the nuns choral sound with four part harmony in Latin while the children's voices soar in their numbers. Choreography by Katrina Pavao and Diego Guevara includes Rolf and Liesl's dance, the party dance and the Laendler dance where the Captain and Maria fall in love with each other. They also do clever work with the children in the "Do Re Mi'' march, "The Lonely Goatherd" and the "So Long Farewell" scene. All the gorgeous costume are by David Cabral of Providence College. Leading this huge cast as Maria is Katrina Pavao. She is feisty and spunky as well as warm and charming. Katrina makes the audience fall in love with her and she doesn't disappoint them. Her splendid voice soars from her opening "Sound of Music'' as she visits the mountainside, to "My Favorite Things" which she sings joyfully with the Mother Abbess, to "Do Re Mi'' where she teaches the children how to sing, to "Lonely Goatherd" where she comforts the children during a thunder storm. The two duets with the Captain, "The Sound of Music reprise is exuberant and the love song "An Ordinary Couple" is given new life by being done more up tempo and in a different key with prettier harmonies. The debonair and dashing Colin Whitney tackles the role of the Captain with gusto. He appears in his first scene as a strict martinet who runs his household like he ran his ship by whistling for everyone. Colin shows how this stern man eventually melts when he sees how Maria brought life back into his and his children's lives. He handles the comic moments with ease especially the various whistle sounds and also shows his tenderness during the love song with Maria. Colin's transition is wonderful, bringing tears to your eyes when he sings "Sound of Music'' with his children and once again when he sings "Edelweiss" at the concert while playing the guitar. "Edelweiss'' becomes more poignant when you realize that it is the last song "Oscar Hammerstein wrote before his death in 1960. Kudos to Katrina and Colin for a job well done as the leads in this show.
The Mother Abbess is played by Olivia Mathis. She has an excellent soprano voice which soars off the charts in the emotionally moving and tear jerking "Climb Every Mountain" in both acts. Olivia also leads the nuns chorus in "Dixit Dominus", "Rex Admirabilis", "Gaudeamus" and "Confitemini Domino" and does a rowdy version of "My Favorite Things" with Katrina and also "Maria". She portrays this kindly older nun guiding the young novice to choose the right path for her life and the removal of Maria's veil is symbolic of leaving her old life behind and entering the life she is meant to lead. A scene stealer in this show is Samuel Stone as Max Detweiler. He has many comic lines and has a topnotch singing voice in his two songs with Elsa. His counterpart in the show is Elsa Schrader who is engaged to the Captain and is wonderfully played by raven haired Devon Carreiro . She has a lovely soprano voice which she uses in my two favorite songs in the show, "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It". and sing about rich people's love surviving all obstacles in the first one and they sing in three part harmony with Colin in the latter one about how the most important thing in the world should be oneself. The Captain strongly disagrees with them. Devon wears some of David Cabral's most gorgeous gowns in this show, too.
Another highlight is the seven multitalented children in this show. From the exuberance of "Do Re Mi" to the fright of "Lonely Goatherd" to the excitement of "So Long Farewell" to the harmonic tearjerking "Sound of Music" and the frightened rendition of the concert numbers, these children not only sing well but run the gamut of emotions all night long with wonderful line deliveries and facial expressions. These children move well onstage and come across as real children not mechanical ones. The talented children are Miranda Dean as Liesl, Benjamin Smith as Friedrich, who hits a high G perfectly in "So Long Farewell", Rosemary Dean as the mischievous Louisa, Evan Greene as Kurt, Hannah Leach as Brigitta who has many lines in the show as the truth teller and delivers them like a seasoned pro, Maeve Kelly as Marta and Meara Kelly as Gretl who is cute as a button and sings with perfect pitch. Miranda also gets to sing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with John Thorsen as Rolf and the reprise with Katrina as Maria explains "Love isn't love till you give it away". and do a wonderful dance to the song and a cute kiss at the end of it. John handles the transition from naive boy to hated Nazi very well and the character redeems himself by allowing the Von Trapps to escape from Herr Zeller and the Nazis. Zeller is wonderfully played by John Coletta who gets to yell and scare everyone in the show especially frightening is a scene in the lobby at intermission when he and the Nazi characters drag suspected traitors backstage to punish them. The housekeeper and butler are played by Molly Nocera and Zachary Marquis who handle their comic lines with ease while the three nuns who brighten up the show with their antics during "Maria" and other scenes are played by Shelby Clarke who conducts the nuns chorus, Victoria Szlastha and Margaret Rogers. (Molly is a hoot with her nervous ticks and one of her lines stops the show with hilarity "They never listen".) This show brings back many happy memories for me having performed in it twice, in 1980 as Herr Zeller, in 1986 as Max and having directed it in 1994. So for a topnotch rendition of one of the most beloved musicals of all times, be sure to catch "The Sound of Music".