Splendid cast gives voice to `Music'

Holiday attraction runs at Toby's through Feb. 17

Review

December 14, 2007|By William Hyder | William Hyder,Special to the Sun

The Sound of Music is running at Toby's Dinner Theatre through Feb. 17.

As a holiday attraction, the show has a lot to recommend it: a colorful Alpine setting, two love stories, seven charming children, a strong book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and a string of memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein songs: "The Sound of Music," "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "Edelweiss," "Climb Every Mountain."

Above all, there is the cheerful, optimistic character of Maria. We meet her as a postulant in a convent. Raised in the freedom of the Austrian mountains, she is impatient with the restrictions of religious life.

While acknowledging Maria's kindness and generosity, the nuns deplore her carelessness about rules and regulations, singing "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

The Mother Abbess decides Maria needs more life experience before she can make a sincere decision about taking the vows. She sends Maria to the estate of Capt. Baron Georg von Trapp, a widower who needs a governess for his large family.

The baron is a retired naval officer, a decorated hero of World War I. He runs his household along military lines, dressing his children in sailor suits and summoning his servants with a bosun's whistle.

Maria, ever upbeat, wins over the children in no time and even finds the human side of their stern father. And before long there's romance in the air.

But the story, set in 1938, soon becomes serious. The German word Anschluss keeps bobbing up in the dialogue. It is not explained, but it seems to be something the Austrians regard warily.

We meet two of the baron's friends: The rich, sophisticated Elsa Schraeder has matrimonial designs on him. Max Detweiler, an amiable official of the Austrian Ministry of Education, is organizing a national music festival.

Max gets frequent telephone calls from Berlin, causing the baron to wonder what the German government has to do with Max's work.

Today's audience might wonder about it, too. But in 1959, when The Sound of Music opened on Broadway, most of the people who saw it would have had vivid memories of the grim events in Europe 21 years earlier.

In 1938, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party were in control of Germany. Hitler had ambitions to rule all of Europe.

The Austrians spoke German, and many of them felt a kinship with the Germans. So Hitler, born in Austria himself, conceived the idea of making the country part of a German empire.

He called this plan the Anschluss (annexation).

Some Austrians favored the idea; some were opposed. Many, fatally for their country, thought the best idea was to mind their business, live their lives and do nothing to anger the Nazis. In The Sound of Music, Elsa Schrader and Max Detweiler decide to take this middle course.

Baron von Trapp has no use for the Nazis, but when they arrive (the German army rolled into Austria in March 1938 and took over without meeting any opposition), they make him an offer he cannot refuse: accept a commission in the German navy, or else.

The family's attempt to flee to Switzerland brings the show to its climax. It is not giving away too much to say that their success owes a lot to Maria's courage and quick wit, and not a little to a sly helping hand from Max Detweiler.

A splendid cast is headed by Jessica Ball as Maria and David Bosley-Reynolds as Baron von Trapp. Others are Debra Buonaccorsi (Elsa Schraeder), Andrew Horn (Max), Gabriella DeLuca (Liesl, the baron's eldest child), Lynn Sharp-Spears (the Mother Abbess), Melynda Burdette (Sister Berthe), Genevieve Williams (Sister Margaretta), Ariel Vinitsky (Sister Sophia), Jerry Gietka (Franz, the butler) and Victoria Winter (Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper).

Much of the show's appeal comes from the children in the cast. The younger ones do not give the polished performances of their adult colleagues, but they are charming in their naturalness. In the performance we saw (the children's roles are double cast), they were Casey Klein, Rachel Petti, Hutson Bauman, Bailey Gabrish, Maya Goldman and Megan Tavares.

Toby's Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" through Feb. 17. Evenings: Doors open 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Matinees: Doors open 10:30 a.m. Sundays and Wednesdays. Reservations are required. Information or reservations: 410-730-8311 or 800-888-6297.

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