There are thousands of musicals and plays produced each year that by title many both in and out of the theatre scene have never heard of.
"The Sound of Music" is not one of them. Richard Rodgers compelling score is theatrical brilliance, and combined with Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics, completes the prestige of this on stage magic trick. Produced in 1959, this was the pair's last collaboration together as Hammerstein passed away nine months after it opened on Broadway . His show has lived much longer however.
Columbiana's Main Street Theatre opened its inaugural season this past weekend with this compelling piece of American theatre history and a wise choice it was. The Sound of Music when staged right is lightning in a bottle. It is more than just compelling music and lyrics. It is an endearing love story complete with an escape from the Nazis, and littered with enough children to mesmerize you with their talent and cuteness. But it's far from a sure thing.
When staged poorly, it turns into a quagmire and watching it is comparable to waiting for a slow-moving train when you are running late. That is not the case here. The Main Street Theatre has staged an endearing version of this classic that should not be missed. Even if you have never seen the show or movie before, you will surely recognize some of the musical numbers such as "Do-Re-Mi,"?"My Favorite Things," and "The Sound of Music."
The story follows young Maria, as she leaves the convent to become governess for Captain Von Trapp and his seven children. She wins over the mischievous children with her music and much needed affection, and soon wins over the Captain as well.
Lindsay Heath is absolutely darling as Maria. Her looks and charm not only win over the Von Trapp family but the audience as well. Heath has youthful exuberance and a high quality singing voice which amply captures the quality of Rodgers' tunes. Heath has no problem selling her affection for the seven Von Trapp children, never leaving a doubt she is true and sincere.
Heath is paired with Tim Carr as Captain Georg Von Trapp, a decorated World War I captain of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, who runs his house like a military institution, and summons the children with a boatswain's call.
Vonn Trapp's wife had passed away, thus leaving him with the odd parenting skills that Dr. Phil would surely allot an entire show for. Carr had good stage presence, but adding more expression to his character would have enhanced the part greatly. If not for the spoken lines indicating he was growing feelings for Maria the audience would not have known.
The Von Trapp children, all seven of them, were adorable. Cheyanne Carr, Jack Kuczek, Paige Hopper, Hudson Hartly, Chloe Housteau, Lilian Kimpel and Mia Bordonaro were perfectly cast by directors Carla Sukosd and Erich Offenburg. Cute, charming, funny, and heart warming would sum up their performances perfectly.
Megan Cowan fills the shoes of Elsa, and plays the role with the perfect amount of high class socialite with a subtle touch of wicked evil step-mother sprinkled in. Her natural grace and strong stage presence compliment her character well.
Carl Brockway plays one of the best renditions of Franz the Butler I have seen on a community theatre stage. Not only does he look the part, but his "stuffiness" are perfect for the role which he plays masterfully. Another pleasant surprise was Wayne Morris, who provided comic relief as Max, and although had one of the weaker singing voices of the cast, made it work by making it amusing and part of his character. Morris had the audience laughing the majority of the time he was on stage. Julie Benner shines as the Mother Abbess, and Leigh Ann Kocanjer does well as Frau Schmidt.
The set design by Don Arthurs was simple yet elegant and very effective. The multi-level set made good use of the stage space, and the use of the projection screen for the opening number to portray the hillside was a splendid touch.
The lighting however could have been much better. On a vast number of scenes the actors faces were shadowed or completely in the dark, especially when moving either stage left or right. Many times actors would walk out of their pool of light when it was segregated to one section of stage and were left in the dark.
With that being said, this will surely improve the more productions this talented technical team gets under their belt. It is very apparent that time and money has been invested into the lighting and sound system within the facility. The movie style adds during pre-show was a classy touch, and there was even a trailer of the theatre's next production, "The Man in the Iron Mask." The pace of the show also could have been picked up at times, as it seemed actors and actresses were heading places without a clear reason to be there and without a purpose which slowed their pace down. Aside from that, I truly found Columbaina's "The Sound of Music" to be a first rate performance. Part of reviewing a performance is observing how the audience is enjoying it, and judging from the people quietly singing verses of the lyrics to themselves around me, I would say it was thoroughly enjoyed. The show excels and will surely provide the new theatre with an hit to kick off their first season.
The show runs again today and Saturday, at 8 p.m. each showing and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets can be purchased at the theatre or by going online to www.brownpapertickets.com
Since retiring, guest reviewer Joseph Boley has been writing free lance reviews for stage and screen for over three years, and has recently relocated the Youngstown area. Boley maintained a theatrical review internet blog in the state of New Jersey for over a year. He earned a degree in journalism and communications for the University of Syracuse. Boley has directed theatre productions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan for over 20 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.