Theatre by the Sea's second show of their 79th 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 Broadway show opened 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 Amiee Turner casts this show wonderfully with topnotch vocalists and performers. The story is still poignant and moving, earning it a well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show.
Ocean State Theatre Company, the not-for-profit producing entity at the historic Theatre by the Sea makes sure the production values of the show are high with their lush sets and beautiful costumes by David Cabral. Amiee blocking of this huge show is well done especially the nuns staging and the children and concert scenes. The most emotionally draining scene is the emotional goodbye between Maria and Mother Abbess at the end of Act 1 as well as the final escape of the Trapp family climbing up the mountain. This scene ensures there isn't a dry eye in the house after its execution. Music director Frederick Willard obtains a glorious sound from the cast and the nuns choral sound is astounding with the four part harmony in Latin while the children's voices soar in their numbers. Fred plays lead keyboard and conducts a six piece orchestra. Amiee's choreography includes the Rolf and Liesl dance, the party dance and the Laendler dance when the Captain and Maria fall in love with each other as well as the children's "Do Re Mi" march, the dance to the "Lonely Goatherd" and the "So Long Farewell" segments.
Leading this huge cast as Maria is gorgeous brunette, Brianne Moore. She shows great depth in this role, being feisty and spunky as well as warm and charming. Brianne makes the audience fall in love with her. Her splendid soprano voice soars from her opening "The 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, "Sound Of Music" reprise is exuberant and the love song "Something Good" is tenderly rendered. I am extremely glad Amiee used the majestic melody of "Something Good" as the love song because the original song "An Ordinary Couple" is so dirge like and dreadful that it should have been called Something Bad.Brianne breathes new life into this well known role, making it fresh and new to this very appreciative audience.
Dan Debenport plays the debonair Captain. He makes the role his own with his acting ability and wonderful singing voice. Dan appears as a strict martinet at first as he runs his household like he ran his battleship by whistling for everyone. He shows how this stern man eventually melts when he realizes how Maria has brought joy back into his and his children's lives. Dan handles the comic moments with ease especially the various whistle sounds but he also shows his tenderness during the love song with Maria. He brings tears to your eyes when he sings "Sound of Music" with his children and especially tugs at your heartstrings when the Captain sings "Edelweiss" at the concert. "Edelweiss" becomes even more poignant when you realize it is the last song Oscar Hammerstein wrote before his death in 1960. Brianne and Dan have great chemistry together and with the children, too.
The Mother Abbess is fabulously played by Patrice Tiedemann. She has an excellent soprano voice which soars off the charts in the emotionally moving and tear jerking "Climb Every Mountain" in both acts. Patrice also leads the nuns chorus in "Dixit Dominus", "Rex Admirabilis", "Gaudeamus" and "Confitemini Domino" and does a rowdy version of "My Favorite Things" with Brianne. She portrays this kindly older nun who guides the younger one to choose the right path for her life. The removal of Maria's veil at the end of Act 1 is symbolic of her leaving her old life behind her to enter the life she should lead. Another emotion packed moment is when the Abbess says goodbye to Maria before the family leaves Austria. One of the funniest characters in this show is Jean-Pierre Ferragamo as Max Detweiler. He has many comic lines and makes them all hit pay dirt with his topnotch timing and delivery. I first reviewed him at Theatre by the Sea as Pseudolos in "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in 2007 so he definitely knows how to portray a comic role. His counterpart in this show is Elsa Schrader who is engaged to the Captain and is beautifully played by Lauren Gemelli. She makes this sophisticated woman of the world come to life as Elsa. She has a topnotch soprano voice which she uses with Jean-Pierre in my favorite song in the show "How Can Love Survive?". She, Dan and Jean-Pierre sing this number about rich people's love surviving all obstacles. Lauren wears some of David Cabral's best costumes. I last reviewed Lauren as Bonnie in "Anything Goes" in 2006 for Star Players.
Another highlight of the show is the seven talented performers who play the children. It is really thirteen due to double casting. From the exuberance of "Do Re Mi" to the fright of "Lonely Goatherd" to the excitement of "So Long Farewell" to the harmonic poignant "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. They come across as real children not mechanical ones. The talented children I saw are Samantha Dallas as Liesl, Aaron O'Brien Mackiesey as Friedrich, has great facial expressions and reactions, Meghan Lydon as the mischievous Louisa, Cole Mathewson as Kurt, whose voice is heard in the solo of "Sound Of Music" reprise and with his boy soprano hits a high G in "So Long Farewell", Abigail McMahon as Brigitta, who has many lines as the truth teller and delivers them like an old pro, Lily McMahon as Marta, who is nine years old, and Eva Senerchia as Gretl, who is cute as a button. The alternate cast is Peter Bucci, Grace Romanello, Connor Buonaccorsi, Sarah Dube, Jacqueline Claire DePetro and Sophie Blackman as Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl. Samantha as Liesl also sings "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", does a topnotch song and dance with Colin Whitney as Rolf and the reprise with Brianne who as Maria explains "Love isn't love till you give it away. She and Colin do a marvelous dance to the song with a cute kiss at the close of it. Colin handles the transition from naive boy to hated Nazi marvelously and the character redeems himself by allowing the Von Trapps to escape from Herr Zeller and the Nazis. Colin has a superb singing voice and will be a freshman at Carneige Mellon in September. John Adkison plays Herr Zeller excellently, getting to yell at and scare everyone in the show and in the audience, too. He just finished musically directing "Forever Plaid" The comic nuns who sing "Maria" with Patrice are played wonderfully by Louise Tetreault,Jennifer Armstrong and Alisoon Mahoney. The maid and the butler are also well played by Andrea McCullough and Curt Denham.Kudos to one and all for doing a terrific job in this show. Nate Scuggs returns to TBTS and does a comic turn as the accordion player who wins second place in the concert scene.
A word of praise to Duane and Karleen Crowe of the Bistro, I enjoyed a delicious dinner of Sole Francaise, mashed potatoes and summer squash and home made Key Lime Pie. This show brings back many happy memories for me having worked on it three separate times. I performed in it twice, in 1980 as Herr Zeller, in 1986 as Max and also directed it in 1994. So for a topnotch rendition of this classic musical, be sure to catch "The Sound of Music" at Theatre by the Sea. This was the first show I saw at this theatre back in 1972.