Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Sound of Music - The Ordway

Billie Wildrick as Maria Rainer.
All photos by Rich Ryan Photography.
Lonely goatherds. 
Brown paper packages tied up in string. 
Spunky postulants. 
Tough but tender Captains. 
A plethora of adorable children. 
Singing nuns!

The Sound of Music. Everyone knows the story. If you are of a certain age, you probably saw the movie every year on television. So is there any reason to see this show again?


There is a reason The Sound of Music has remained so popular, and the Ordway's new production is an excellent example of why. Simply put, it's a great musical, with a stirring story, memorable characters and wonderful songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II at the height of their powers. 

I feel like we've spent the whole year raving about the Ordway's productions (and we HAVE), and this show is yet another home run in their string of homegrown musicals. This time, Gary Briggle, last seen at the Ordway as the Modern Major General in The Pirates of Penzance, directs. Bob Richard's choreography is perfectly fitting, with touches of ballet. Music director Raymond Berg leads a substantial pit orchestra (I count 22 pieces!) that bring full depth and color to the gorgeous music.

Beginning with the gorgeous singing of the nun's chorus, we know that musically we are in for a treat. And when we discover Maria on the mountain, Billie Wildrick shows us this young woman relishing the peace and strength she finds both in the mountains and in the music. I heard those lyrics as if for the first time, as Maria trying to express herself.

Caroline Innerbichler, Quinn Morrissey, Chloe Lou Erickson, Josephine Turk,
Bella Blackshaw, Natalie Tran, and Nate Turcotte as the von Trapp children.
When Maria is sent away from the Abbey to care for the von Trapp children (and to test her vocation), we admire her spunk at standing up to the imperious Captain and her wit when meeting the children.

Dieter Bierbrauer is a suitably starchy Captain von Trapp, with an undercurrent of sadness, and when he hears his children singing and joins in, there were tears in my eyes, and in his as well.

The children were adorable—Natalie Tran as Brigitta was a definite standout, but they were all marvelous, including Caroline Innerbichler as Liesl and Nate Turcotte as Kurt. They were very charming to watch even when they weren't the focus of the scene, each clearly conveying character through their reactions. Full marks for Quinn Morrissey as a reserved Friedrich and Bella Blackshaw as the high-spirited Louisa. As the smallest von Trapps, Josephine Turk as Marta and Chloe Lou Erickson and Mabel Weismann as Gretl (I think we saw Mabel on opening night) are just as sweet as can be.

You just get the sense, in this show as in the Ordway's other shows with children, that it's a pretty sincere, kind stage. Sincerity rings through in everything they do, and it's so heartwarming and dear.
Dieter Bierbrauer and Billie Wildrick doing the Laendler,
aka The Austrian Dance of Love.

The heart of The Sound of Music is love. Maria's unconditional love for the children brings them to life, and their happiness allows the Captain to let go of his sorrow and anger. And when the Captain and Maria fall for each other, it's the most natural thing in the world. (It doesn't hurt that Bierbrauer is probably the hottest Georg since Christopher Plummer!)

The supporting cast is also wonderful, from a twinkly-eyed Dee Noah as Sister Margaretta and the other nuns, to Tod Peterson's Franz and Wendy Lehr's Frau Schmidt holding down the Captain's household.

Kersten Rodau as Frau Schraeder with
Chloe Lou Erickson as Gretl.
Despite loving Kersten Rodau in everything this year, I was a bit worried about her as Frau Schraeder. But one of the things that I love so much about the original cast recordings are the fabulous songs that Frau Schraeder sings with Max Detweiler. "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive" are not easy songs to sing, and Rodau sang them beautifully. Man, she has PIPES.

James Detmar was a perfectly lovely Max. Sometimes this character can be a bit over the top but I love Detmar's dry humor. He landed his jokes perfectly, but showed real affection for the family, particularly in the contest scene.
James Detmar as Max Detweiler.

The Sound of Music is such a part of popular culture that it is referenced in Broadway's The Book of Mormon (though it's a song from the movie and not the stage play). And ABC is showing a Sing Along Sound of Music on Sunday December 20.

But take this opportunity to see this stellar production of the show, at the Ordway through January 2, and see and hear this old story with new eyes and ears before they say "So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!"

All the von Trapps singing their hearts out. You'll be so touched you might be tempted to join them.