Nearly flawless 'Sound of Music' delights crowd

Live Arts Maryland delivers captivating performance of classic gem

February 25, 2011|By Mary Johnson, Special to The Sun

Live Arts Maryland delivered four splendid performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," this month, telling anew the story of the Austrian singing von Trapp family to justifiably enthusiastic applause and extended standing ovations.

Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis was filled to near capacity for four performances just before Valentine's Day, and the standing ovations were "deafening," says Performing Arts Association of Linthicum President Jo Barker. The largest audience anyone can remember turned out for a special show in Brooklyn Park for PAAL subscribers.

I attended the Saturday night performance at Maryland Hall to hear a cast of 20 singers and actors supported by the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and a select chorus of Annapolis Chorale members. The cast, under the skilled direction of J. Ernest Green, created a musical performance that generated the most enthusiastic, prolonged standing ovation I had witnessed in 14 years of attending these events.

Barker said the show got a similar reaction from the PAAL audience. "I have never had as many accolades about any show," she said. "We probably had our largest crowd ever, and the applause was deafening at the end."

This was a nearly flawless show. The magnificent orchestra, the seven von Trapp children and perfect casting all came together for Green, whose many talents include an ability to bring magic to his Broadway in Concert shows. Catrin Davies was perfectly cast as Maria, and she joined an equally inspired choice of Shouvik Mondle as Captain von Trapp and near-beatific nuns led by the majestic Jill Woodward as the Mother Abbess.

Like many Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations, "The Sound of Music" has become part of our American culture. The original 1959 Broadway production — starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel — opened with the song "Maria," which was written for Martin by then terminally ill Hammerstein. The lovely lyrics capture the essence of anyone's feelings for a daughter or granddaughter, especially in the line "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"

The Broadway play was equaled if not overshadowed by the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which was made on location in Salzburg. Forty-five years later, it continues to be part of television programming at holidays, and it endures as a cherished tradition across generations.

It seems a formidable task to translate this iconic musical to a local live event, yet that is what Green accomplished. The von Trapp children immediately captivated the audience when played by Katherine Riddle as 16-year-old Liesl, Daniel Starnes as Friedrich, Ella Green as Louisa, John Morrison as Kurt, Maddie Howard as Brigitta, Avery Morrison as Marta and kindergartner Cate Malachowski as Gretl, the youngest. All seven sang and harmonized beautifully while skillfully delivering every line.

Another delightful component of Green's musicals is the family-like quality that comes when children in earlier performances return as talented young adults, such as 18-year-old David Dickey who played Rolf, and had been seen as a 9-year-old in "Secret Garden." The role of Rolf is pivotal and not only requires a singer who can charm us with "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" but can also play a credible budding Nazi who remains fond enough of Liesl to allow the family to escape.

Riddle was also a member of the "Secret Garden" cast and has appeared in several other Live Arts Maryland performances. Riddle's Liesl sang well and was as competent as any adult on stage.

Deserving kudos were the irresistible pair of Tom Magette and Molly Moore Green in their duet "How Can Love Survive?" Magette charmed and amused the crowd as Max Detweiler, and Green created an elegant and understanding Baroness Elsa Schraeder. They later dealt with the impending Nazi menace in their duet "No Way to Stop It" that provided historical insight.

For adding its own luster to this iconic musical, every Live Arts Maryland performer should be awarded an ever-fresh Edelweiss bouquet.

Next on the schedule for Green and Live Arts Maryland is the Annapolis Chorale Chamber Chorus with the choral work "Vespers of 1610" by Claudio Monteverdi. They will perform March 4 and 5 at St. Anne's Church. Tickets are on sale at the Maryland Hall Box Office at 410-280-5640.

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