News Column

'Music' a must-see play [Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)]

December 7, 2013

YellowBrix

Mill Mountain Theatre is back with an exceptional production of the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music."

Perhaps the most popular American musical in the world, "The Sound of Music" as interpreted by Mill Mountain is one of the best I've seen. It is a simple rendering that allows the story and the music to shine forth unencumbered.

The set by Jimmy Ray Ward, MMT's resident scenic designer, is beautiful in its clarity; the audience knows right where it is in every scene but the sets do not dominate. For example, to suggest the Nonnberg Abbey at the opening, Ward drops two antique wrought iron gates that imply the age of the Abbey as well as its cloistered atmosphere. The von Trapp mansion comes out on a cart in the next scene and is lovely without being intrusive.

For the one or two people who have just awakened from a Rip van Winkle snooze and don't know the story, "The Sound of Music" follows an episode in the life of Maria Rainer (Sarah Stevens), a young postulate of the Abbey. She and the Mother Abbess (April Woodall) agree that Maria is not ready to take her final vows and should go back into the world to help her decide. A national naval hero, Captain von Trapp, is in need of a governess for his seven children, so off she goes, complete with guitar and straw hat, to fill the job.

In true Hollywood fashion, she falls in love with the children, and they with her, and eventually with the captain.

The plot, set against the budding Third Reich, is enclosed in music that is most likely familiar to most human beings alive today. "Do-Re-Me" introduced by Maria to the children teaches them not only how to sing but also how to make up songs. Fear of lightning is subdued by "My Favorite Things," and Mother Abbess gives courage to self-doubting Maria with "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," sung by Woodall in a robust alto as thrilling as that of Margery McKay, who dubbed the song for Peggy Wood in the movie version.

Sarah Stevens, a native of Harrisonburg, has a most lovely voice. I caught tones of Mary Martin and Julie Andrews as she sang, and her high soprano is stunning.

The kids, however, steal the show - as they should, because it is through them that Maria and the Captain come to find their love for each other. The MMT troupe of youngsters is delightful, their acting and singing every bit as charming and professional as those on Broadway in 1959 and in the 1965 movie with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer

Al Bundonis, who plays the Captain, broke our hearts with his performance of "Edelweiss." His voice is strong but gentle, and quite operatic.

"The Sound of Music" is absolutely the best musical MMT could bring to the boards for its new debut after being dark for four years because of financial problems. This is also the most appropriate play to present leading up to its 50th-anniversary season.

This is a must-see production no matter how many times one has seen the story. Even if you come to the theatre singing all the songs and reciting all the dialogue, it is like coming home.

"The Sound of Music"

Trinkle Main Stage, Center in the Square, Roanoke

Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 7 through 22. Weekdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $17 to $27

More info: 342-5740, www.millmountain.org

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