Porthouse staging satisfying ‘Sound of Music’
|Shown during a scene in Porthouse Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music” are, from left, Cameron Nelson (Brigitta), Sam Culver (Kurt), Cameron Howell (Frederick), Kayce Cummings (Maria), Courtney Nelson (Louisa), Lucy Anders (Leisl), Cassidy Nelson (Marta) and Carly Nelson (Gretl).|
|Photo: Bob Christy|
“The Sound of Music” satisfies on many levels. On one level, audiences enjoy knowing the story played out on the stage is based on truth. Yes, Oscar Hammerstein (lyrics), Richard Rodgers (music), Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (book) did take some liberties with the biography, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” Those liberties make the story more stage worthy.
Second, a good theatrical production shows the development or change in one or more characters. In an early scene, the nuns sing “Maria,” a song about the playful and undisciplined young postulant. By the end of the play, this young woman has matured into a devoted wife and loving stepmother, who is able to help her family escape the Nazi troops. She’s a hero. We like her all the more because she’s pretty and can sing.
At the start of the play, Baron Von Trapp is a widower who avoids his children in order not to evoke memories of his dead wife. Slowly, he falls in love with the much younger Maria and permits music and love back into his house. He warms to be a man who actually performs in a music festival and listens to the advice of his young bride. He changes and the audience likes him for that change.
“The Sound of Music” is set in Austria, against the beginning of World War II. During the play, Austria surrenders to Germany, without a shot being fired.
Much of the music in this show has become part of the American tradition. Consider the following favorites: “The Sound of Music,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “My Favorite Things,” “Something Good” and “Edelweiss.”
No matter what is happening on stage, the Austrian Alps dominate the backdrop as a friend to the Von Trapp family. Costume designer Sarah Russell met the challenge of costuming nuns, Nazi goons, children in play clothes and party clothes, and Maria’s rich sumptuous wedding dress.
Musical director Jonathan Swoboda and a nine-piece orchestra don’t let the music become sentimental. They move the music ahead with excitement and anticipation for the adventures that might be around the next corner.
Director Terri Kent established a clipped pace for the production. However, in the second act, the weight of the plot (a wedding, a folk festival and the movement of the Nazis into Austria) overpowers the pace and forces the audience to recognize that even real life can become a melodrama.
Choreographer MaryAnn Black has done an excellent job with the large cast. She certainly proved her strengths as a choreographer when she created dances for the seven children who vary in ages and training.
The cast is strong in voice, dancing skills and acting ability. Kayce Cummings created a strong, willful Maria. She has a strong, beautiful voice and can act better than most performers we see in musicals.
Larry Nehring makes a tall, imposing Captain von Trapp. He sings well. Unfortunately, the playwrights didn’t give him many songs.
Kyle Kemph makes Rolph a pleasant boy-next-door. Unfortunately, when he comes under the Nazi influence, Kemph is forced to let his character change into a rough, mean spirited lad. He redeems himself in the final scene, but it may be too late. Kemph is an excellent actor.
This is an emotionally satisfying production. Everyone in the audience knows how the story ends. But, when Maria starts to lead the children and her husband through the Alps to Switzerland, she looks back at her husband, who is at the end of the line behind the children. She grasps the enormity of what she’s about to do. She knows if they’re caught, they will be killed. She takes a look at her husband, the children and starts climbing the mountain. That’s good theater.
Audience members know this is good drama and want to see the story one more time. When I saw the production July 27, it was almost sold out. Many parents shared an evening with their children, who didn’t lose interest in the adventures of Maria and the seven Von Trapp children.
“The Sound of Music” plays through Aug. 12. Those who want to see the show cannot afford to wait to reserve seats. For ticket information, call 330-672-3884 or 330-929-4416.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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