Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents the timeless family favorite The Sound of Music, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. Rollin E. Wehman directs this production filled with lively music and a cast whose natural chemistry make for an evening of entertainment at its best!
Scenic Designer David E. Hunt provides multiple sets, including the marble columns, statues, and stained-glass windows of an Abbey chapel, a painted mountainside with an ivy-covered bridge, and the impressive and elaborate interior of the Von Trapp mansion, consisting of two levels, a large staircase, and great, gilded-framed portraits lining the walls. Lighting Designer Nicky Mahon follows the characters with spotlights when they leave the stage (which is often), and also turns on the houselights during a couple chosen moments, so that the audience itself becomes part of the production. Gaye Law provides costumes, including a simple aproned dress for Maria, as well as beautiful gowns for a party scene, as well as a wedding. Her efforts shine the most with the Von Trapp children, a sizeable seven of them, who wear coordinating outfits throughout the show, including sailor suits, play clothes, and lederhosen.
The time is 1930’s Austria, and Maria Rainer (Maija-Liisa Nielsen) is having a hard time fitting in at an Abbey where she hopes to become a nun. The sisters sing about her outgoing personality in “How Do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?”, painting her as an adventurous, playful young girl who is not ready for the Abbey’s pious atmosphere. To give her time to mature, they send her to the family of Naval Captain Georg von Trapp (Thomas Cleary) to be a governess to his seven children. Georg is a distant, strict, and heartbroken widower who holds decorum, order, and discipline above all, having his children answer (in a march) to a whistle around his neck. Maria successfully wins over the attention-starved children when she teaches them how to sing, with one of the best songs of the production, “Do-Re-Mi.” Her loving and playful personality helps the children blossom into, well, children, where before they behaved more like soldiers. “The Lonely Goatherd” is a fantastic number, with whimsical choreography by Sally A. Roehl, showing a jubilant transformation as the excited children follow behind Maria like a row of ducklings.
Georg discourages this transition at first, but even he is helpless against Maria’s charms, shown with the touching song “Edelweiss.” Nielsen and Cleary’s natural chemistry shines when they share a sweet dance together (Grand Waltz), and Maria settles into the family effortlessly. The children light up the stage with the adorable number “So Long, Farewell.” However, when it becomes apparent that Maria and Georg have fallen in love with each other, this presents a big problem, as Georg is engaged to the haughty Elsa Schraeder (Alison Stokes), and Maria is postulant!
Their personal issues become overshadowed by worldly events, as Austria finally buckles under Nazi Germany’s power. When the German Navy drafts Captain von Trapp, which would force him to fight against his own country, tough decisions must be made…and quickly. The choreography is especially clever here, as the character’s movements become more rigid and severe as the Nazi’s power increases.
The cast in this production is immensely talented, which is impressive considering that over half of the cast is made up of children. A natural chemistry weaves through the entire stage and enables the actors to work off each other seamlessly. It is very rare that one sees such an ensemble. The plot of The Sound of Music is captivating, as well as the cherished songs that it delivers. With a mix of both lighthearted and deep subject matters, this show has it all, and the highly enthusiastic standing ovation given from the audience showed that they agreed.
One of my favorite shows of the season, I highly recommend Riverside Center DInner Theater’s production of The Sound of Music!
Running time is approximately Three hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
The Sound of Music plays through January 6th, 2013 at Riverside Center Dinner Theater – 95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For reservations, call (540) 370-4300.