by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The skies over Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia are resonating as the Official Musical Theatre of the State of Georgia, The Peach State Summer Theatre, is producing the classic of theatre classics, the final musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein , “The Sound of Music”. The remaining dates are June 26, 29, July 4, 6, 10, 12, and 14, with evening performances on June 29 and July 12, and matinees on the other dates.
The musical is one of three presented in rotating repertory during the summer program. All performances are in the auditorium on the VSU campus at 204 West Brookwood Drive; free covered parking is available. The Box Office phone number is (229) 259-7770.
The 1965 movie “The Sound of Music” won the Oscar for Best Picture and like the musical was based on true events from the book “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp, published in 1949. The plot by now is well known to almost everyone. Maria, a novice nun in an Austrian religious community, is sent to the von Trapp family to be the governess for seven children. Captain von Trapp (Michael Elliott) is a widower and a former Naval Officer who runs his household like a military command post. The children wear uniforms and, along with the servants, are summoned by a whistle. Maria’s love of music cannot be caged and she wins over the hearts of the Captain and the children.
Most of the action takes place in the von Trapp home. Since this same stage is used for all three musicals, sets designed by Ruth A. Brandvik must be portable. They are all quite attractive and can be changed in seconds, and range from an Abbey interior to a spacious villa and a mountain meadow . Esther Iverson designed the costumes for all three shows, a formidable task as “The Sound of Music” has some 30 performers, with several changes of clothing required for many them. One saving grace for the costumer is that many of the leading actors are in all three shows and so once you know their sizes, it is just a question of hours of assembling and sewing.
The show is well cast from the opening number with the sweet and understanding Mother Abbess (Tamara Hardesty) and her singing nuns, Sandia Ahlers, Amy Fritsche, and Caroline Hatchett.
Barbara Dare Thomas is excellent as Captain von Trapp’s self-centered fiancée, the glamorous but disquieting Else Schrader. As Liesl, the oldest child, Jennifer Maurer is wonderfully animated with a lovely voice and she matches up well with Rolf (Sean Patrick), a mail clerk who later becomes a Nazi soldier.
Jim Sorensen is funny and likable as Max Detweiler, the talent show booking agent who eventually saves the family from the Nazis. While we are all having fun and enjoying the children and the music, Herr Zeller (Adam Woodruff), a Nazi party martinet, comes on the scene and brings the audience back to the substance of the show, the increasing aggression of the German war machine.
The seven von Trapp children, ranging from age four to age seventeen, kept the many youngsters in the matinee audience enthralled. The rising young stars and scene stealers included Michael McClain (Fredrich), Allie Smotherman (Louisa), Kurt (Nicholas Paoletti), Maggie Tarpley (Brigitta), Elle Scruggs (Marta), and Sofia Paoletti (Gretl).
Rachel Day, who plays the leading role of Maria, is blessed with a marvelous voice and an infectious smile. If artist Norman Rockwell had painted the picture-perfect Alpine Austrian girl, she would have looked like Ms. Ray. You will love Maria, everybody does.
We all know the major songs, “The Sound of Music”, “Maria”, “My Favorite Things”, “ Do-Re-Mi”, and “Climb Every Mountain”, and it was pure pleasure to hear these musical favorites performed by such a talented cast with such grand voices.
The choreography by Eric Brandt Nielsen and Direction by Jacque Wheeler was perfection. The seven piece orchestra under the Musical Direction of Matthew C. Mainella was tucked away above the audience in an enclosed balcony. The music was performed to perfection as well.
Also in this talented cast were Dennis May, Rebecca Morris, Jessica Mathis, Madeline Glenn Thomas, Larren Woodward, Chela North, Joshua Barcol Ethan Ray Parker, Joely Grace Peterman and Charley Sullivan.
It is a joy to watch a show in the VSU theatre, which has stadium seating, carpeted floors, and plenty of leg room; every seat has a clear view of the stage. You can take a musical theatre vacation less than two hours away out I-10 and up I-75. Make it a vacation for the whole family by including a trip to Valdosta’s Wild Adventures. Check out Peach State Summer Theatre on Facebook or valdosta.edu/psst for a complete schedule of shows and photos. And don’t miss this all time favorite musical, “The Sound of Music”.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM