Theatre Mirror Review "The Soud of Music"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2013 by Tony Annicone

"The Sound of Music"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Renaissance City Theatre Company, the producing entity at the Granite Theatre of Westerly's current show 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. It 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, won six Tony Awards 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, won five Academy Awards including best picture and is shown yearly on television. Director David Jepson casts the show with topnotch performers. The story is still poignant and moving, earning it a standing ovation at the close of the show.

David infuses his cast with the humor and pathos to entertain the audience. Standout moments include the nuns staging, the children, the wedding and concert scenes while the most emotionally moving scenes are the poignant goodbye between Maria and Mother Abbess at the end of Act 1 as well as the final escape of the Von Trapp family. David also designed the beautiful two story set for the show with the backdrops by Ed Benjamin III and costumes by David's lovely wife Beth, Pat Pendola, Judy George and Pat Smith. Stephen DeCesare as music director taught the cast the well know songs with the harmonic blend and power with the nun's chorus and the children songs standing out. Choreographer Lisa Clough creates the Rolf and Liesl dance, the Laendler dance when Maria and the Captain fall in love as well as the children's "Do Re Mi" march, "The Lonely Goatherd" dance and the "So Long Farewell" segments.

Leading the cast is gorgeous brunette Rochelle Weinrauch as Maria. She captures the essence of the role, being feisty and spunky as well as warm and charming. Rochelle makes the audience fall in love with Maria. Her lovely 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 "I Have Confidence" to raise her spirits to face her new assignment, 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 love song duet with the Captain,  "Something Good" is tenderly rendered. Rochelle breathes new life into this well known role.

Bill Martuscello plays Captain Von Trapp with gusto. The Captain runs his household like he ran his battle ship by whistling for everyone. Bill displays the kinder side of the Captain when Maria brings joy back into his and his children's lives after they sing "The Sound of Music" to him. His "Edelweiss" at the concert is extremely emotional. The song becomes even more poignant when you realize it is the last song Oscar Hammerstein wrote before his death in 1960. Bill and Rochelle sing their love song beautifully together, too. Dale Magnuson is fabulous as Mother Abbess. Her strong and powerful soprano voice soars in the emotionally draining "Climb Every Mountain" in both acts. She also leads the nuns chorus in "Dixit Dominus", "Rex Admirabilis", and a version "Maria" during the wedding scene. Dale does a joyful version of "My Favorite Things" with Rochelle at the beginning of the show. She portrays this kindly older nun who guides the younger one to choose the correct path for her life. One of the funniest characters in this show is Ed Benjamin III as Max Detweiler. He has many comic lines and wins many laughs with his funny antics. Ed also shows off his strong vocals with his counterpart in this show, Anna Armagno as Elsa Schrader who is engaged to the Captain. She is marvelous as Elsa and has a terrific soprano voice which she displays with Ed in my favorite songs in the show "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It". The first is about rich people's love surviving all obstacles while the latter is about caring only about yourself with the Nazi's poised to take over Austria. Anna also doubles as a nun in the show.

Another highlight of the show is the seven talented performers who play the children. They play their parts marvelously, making them realistic and not robotic. Some of the best child performers around. 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 also excel with strong line deliveries and facial expressions. The talented children are Stephanie Rodger as Liesl, Andrew Faria as Friedrich, who hits a high G in "So Long Farewell",  Grace Gilbert as Louisa, who is very mischievous,Spencer Stanley as Kurt, who sings the lead in "Sound of Music", Brigid Fitzgerald as Brigitta, who always tells the truth including telling Maria that she is in love with the Captain, Chloe Morehouse as Marta, and Bobbie Doherty as Gretl. Both of these girls are cute as buttons and steal many a scene with their endearing talent. Michaela Pendola, Chloe Kolbenheyer, Maria Martuscello and Elena Fusaro play Lousia, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl at alternating performances. Stephanie also displays her strong voice in "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", does a topnotch dance with Max Leatham as Rolf and sings the reprise with Rochelle who as Maria explains "Love isn't love till you give it away." Max displays his strong voice in this song and also changes from naive boy to hated Nazi. The character eventually redeems himself by allowing the Von Trapps to escape from Herr Zeller and the Nazis. Tom Steenburg plays Herr Zeller wonderfully, yelling and scaring everyone in the show and in the audience, too. Tom won a lot of booing at the curtain call. The comic nuns who sing "Maria" with Dale are Chantal Reardon, Denise Lacharite and Lorie Olsen. The butler, Franz and maid, Frau Schmidt are well played by John Lamar and Mandy Solis who win many laughs. This show brings back many happy memories having worked on it on three separate occasions. I performed in it twice, in 1980 as Herr Zeller, in 1986 as Max and directed it in 1994. So for a well done version of this heart warming classic, be sure to catch The Renaissance City Theatre Company's "The Sound of Music" at the Granite Theatre in Westerly.

"The Sound of Music" (11 October - 17 November)
RENAISSANCE CITY THEATRE COMPANY
@ Granite Theatre, 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1(401)596-2341

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