The third show of Reagle Players 37th 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 Frank Roberts casts this show wonderfully with fabulous sounding vocalists and performers in every role. The story is still poignant and moving and Reagle Players version is a stunning triumph, earning it a well deserved standing ovation as well as making it one of this summer's must see shows.
Artistic director and producer, Robert Eagle makes sure the high production values can be witnessed in the lush sets and beautiful costumes, always ensuring his audience a splendid show. Frank's blocking of this huge show is well done especially the nuns staging and the children and concert scenes with the most emotionally draining one being the final tableau of the Trapp family climbing up the mountain. The nuns choral sound is astounding with the four part harmony in Latin while the children's voices soar in their numbers. Music directors for the adults are Paul Katz and Dan Rodriguez and the vocal director for the children is Jennifer Honan. The magnificent orchestra is conducted by Jeffrey Leonard who has a mandolin and harp in it, producing heavenly sounds. Jeff not only conducts his musicians but conducts the cast for their musical entrances, too. The impressive sets include the mountain and Abbey backdrops as well as a fantastic two story villa set. Choreography by Susan Chebookjian includes Rolf and Liesl's dance, the party dance and the Laendler dance where the Captain and Maria fall in love with each other. She also does clever work with the children in the "Do Re Mi" march, the puppet dance to "Lonely Goatherd" and the "So Long Farewell" segment.
Sarah Pfisterer is perfect as Maria. She is feisty and spunky as well as warm and charming. Sarah makes the audience fall in love with her and she doesn't disappoint them. Her gorgeous 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. Sarah's best number is "I Have Confidence" which shows off her soprano range to full advantage, sending chills up your spine. The two duets with the Captain, the exuberant "Sound of Music'' reprise and "Something Good", their love ballad are tenderly rendered. ( I am extremely glad they used the majestic melody of "Something Good" as the love song in the show because the original song, ''An Ordinary Couple" is so dirge like and dreadful it should have been titled Something Bad.) Sarah's strong acting ability shines through in her dialogue with the Captain, the children and the Abbess. She breathes new life into this well known role, making it fresh to this very appreciative audience. The debonair and dashing John Davidson tackles the role of the Captain with gusto. Appearing in his first scene as a strict martinet who runs his household like he ran his ship by whistling for everyone. John shows how this stern man eventually melts when he sees how Maria has 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 Sarah. John'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 Sarah and John for a job well done as the leads in this show.
The Mother Abbess is played by Jenny Lynn Stewart who in real life is a very pretty blond. She has an excellent soprano voice which soars off the scale in the emotionally moving and tearjerking "Climb Every Mountain" in both acts. Jenny also leads the nuns chorus in "Dixit Dominus", "Rex Admirabilis", "Gaudeamus" and "Confitemini Domino" and does a rowdy version of "My Favorite Things" with Sarah. She portrays this kindly older nun guiding the younger one to choose the right path for her life and the removal of Maria's veil is symbolic of leaving her old life behind to enter the life she is meant to lead. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Bob Freschi as Max Detweiler. He has the many comic lines and makes them all hit pay dirt with his timing and delivery. His counterpart in the show is Elsa Schrader who is engaged to the Captain and is played by Sylvia Rhyne. 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". Sylvia and Bob sing about rich people's love surviving all obstacles in the first one and they sing in three part harmony with John in the latter one about how the most important thing in the world should be oneself. The Captain disagrees with their philosophy and shows it by angrily strumming on his guitar during it.
Another highlight of this show is the seven multitalented performers who play the children. 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 19 year old Molly O'Neal as Liesl who is a sophomore at Tisch School of the Arts, 13 year old Steven Krueger as Friedrich who is an eighth grader who recently played Charlie Brown, 12 year old Deana Michelle Foltz as the mischievous, Louisa who played Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun" and has 3 auditions for shows in the near future, 12 year old Christian Johansen as Kurt who has been acting since he was four and is playing the lead in "That's Andy", a Broadway bound musical (he hits a high G perfectly in "So Long Farewell"), Charlotte Horan as Brigitta who is a third grader and appeared on PBS ( she has many lines in the show as the truthteller and delivers them like an old pro), Claire Dickson as Marta who is eight years old and appeared in "As You Like It" and "The Christmas Revels'' and Ashley Learned Kamal as Gretl who is five and a half years old and is making her debut, sings with perfect pitch and is carrying on as the third generation of Learned's on the Reagle stage. Molly also gets to sing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with Garett Hawe as Rolf and the reprise with Sarah who as Maria explains "Love isn't love till you give it away". Molly and Garett do a dance to the song with a cute kiss at the end of it. Garett 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 well played by Dave McGuire who gets to yell and scare everyone in the show. The housekeeper and butler are played by married couple, Aurelie and Stan Alger 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 Marian Rambelle, Rachelle Riehl and Margie Quinlan. So for a topnotch rendition of one of the most beloved musicals of all times, be sure to catch "The Sound of Music" in Waltham, MA. You won't be disappointed.