note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Turtle Lane Playhouse wraps "The Sound of Music" in a stunning package...with a solid Maria in Donna DeWitt, gorgeous sets by Ron L. Dion and a passel of adorable kids (two sets, in fact). But they do something else right too: this is a production which makes you remember exactly what the Von Trapps were running away from. All too often productions of this last Rodgers and Hammerstein musical emphasize the sweetness of the story and play down the Nazi threats. This time, thanks to director Paul Farwell, you're acutely aware that the Von Trapp performance of "Edelweiss" is a slap in the face to the men who had just annexed Austria...and you know what the characters do not: that going along with the Nazis, as Uncle Max urges Captain Von Trapp to do, will have grave consequences.
The Lindsay and Crouse book is witty and endearing certainly, but some serious issues bubble just beneath the surface. The musical opens with the exquisite "Dixit Dominus" sung by the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey, led by Laurie Stewart Otten as the formidable Mother Abbess. Otten lends her powerful voice to the extraordinarily moving "Climb Every Mountain".
The entire cast (and two casts of Von Trapp children) make this production a pleasure. Michael Duarte is an imposing Captain, Deb Poppel a delightful Sister Margaretta, Jean Liuzzi a crabby Sr. Berthe, Greta Merchant a charming housekeeper --- although I don't understand why only the servants and Nazis have German accents. Amy Allen is a sympathetic (for once!) rival for the Captain's affections, and Rich White (who played one of the Von Trapp children in the original production!) an irascible but loveable Uncle Max.
Jennifer Micarelli invents some sparkling (but restrained of course) choreography for the nuns...and Val Verge outfits them in volumes of black muslin. Her costumes for the Von Trapps are earthy, soft tones of Austrian green, and flashy red brocade for the "other" woman. Michael Kreutz' orchestra captures the rich sounds of authentic Austrian instruments, even the humorous tinkling of a zither. Joanne Savage lights the Abbey in sombre, dark shadows and the Von Trapp home in warm, bright sunlight. From the kids to the nuns of the cloister, this joyous production rings true.