One of the key themes of the winter holidays is the focus on home and family. How appropriate it is that the Cardinal Stage Company's family show is Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. It's a moving, lovingly and cleverly staged love story about personal growth, heroism and the healing of a family.
Melissa Bohon was a joy as the eager postulant Maria. Through her the hills were indeed alive. There were those oddly childlike enduring memories of things like "whiskers on kittens." "The Lonely Goatherd" yodeled, and all the music came out of the orderly magic of "Do-Re-Mi" as song and dance replaced the mechanical marching that the grieving widower Captain Von Trapp had imposed on his children.
Daniel Narducci did a lovely job both dramatically and vocally as the stiff captain who rediscovers the joy of music, the love of his children and then the love for Maria. He nicely handled the growth and change as he moved from frozen grief to warmth and then heroic resistance to the tide of Nazism.
Johann Moffit was the thoughtful Mother Abbess, a woman who understands Maria and her special place in the balance of the worldly and the spiritual. Her "Climb Every Mountain" was the key ending of the first act and the moment of transition for Maria and the show.
Mike Price as the comical scheming opportunistic Max and Caroline Dowd-Higgins as the gracefully scheming business woman Elsa did a good job with difficult roles. Rodgers and Hammerstein actually construct a separate musical language for the two with a couple of patter songs that always seem an awkward fit to me. There's a mock paean to the difficulty of love between millionaires,"How Can Love Survive" and a piece about giving in to the Nazi aggression, "No Way to Stop It."
Rachel Faulkner was appealing as the oldest daughter Liesl, first resisting Maria and then with her sharing their pangs of first love. The duet "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with CJ Pawlikowski as Rolf was athletically delightful.
I'd be amiss if I didn't mention the strong presences of Janis Parker as the Captain's housekeeper and David Cole as his former naval companion and butler or the trio of nuns played by Lisa Kurz, Erin Mills and Jocelyn Goodmon. The children Wednesday night from the littlest Abigail Strawn through Lauren Bauman, Maria Sarah Lysandrou, Josiah Goodmon, Laura Schneider and Tony Ponella were all superb.
The varied costumes by Angie Birkhardt all looked good on the players and actually were keys to much of the story themselves. Caleb Levengood's sets were varied and interesting from the homey office of the nunnery to the imposing façade of the Captain's home and finally to the menacing unfurling of the Nazi banners in the concert finale. John Berst was always in control as music director and conductor for the fifteen piece orchestra.
Director Randy White with choreographer Esther Widlanski has put together a tight show that uses dance and movement very well. There is the almost "Marge and Gower Champion" dancing of Rolf and Liesl, the tight Broadway numbers for Max and Elsa, folkie dancing of the children, and the magical moments on the dance floor when the Captain and Maria realize their love. Things never stand still for very long in this dynamic production.
The Cardinal Stage Company's production of The Sound of Music at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre continues with performances through January 3rd.
You can find this review and an interview with Daniel Narducci and Melissa Bohon on our web site at WFIU dot ORG
At the theatre for you, I'm George Walker.
The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein
Cardinal Stage Company
Randy White, Director
John Berst, Music Director
Esther Widlanski, Choreographer
December 22, 2009 -January 3, 2010