Theater : "Sound of Music" in Oak Bluffs
Even without the sweeping vista of the Austrian Alps, the hills still managed to come alive this past weekend as the Oak Bluffs School presented a joyful production of "The Sound of Music." The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, masterfully directed by Shelagh Smilie, and starring a large cast of students (and a few adults) was performed for audiences last Friday and Saturday night, with a matinee on Sunday.
The classic story, with its themes of finding one's place in the world and triumphing over adversity, was the perfect vehicle for this group of talented and enthusiastic youngsters. Taylor McNeely, as Captain Von Trapp, did a heroic job as the stern disciplinarian whose hard heart is softened by the effervescent Maria. The Von Trapp children, played by Sarah Dawson, Paul Robinson, Ellie Reagan, Aaron Wilson, Katie Gwynn, Maddy Moore, and Fiona Smilie and Avalon Weiland (sharing the role of tiny Gretl) conveyed unique personalities, each experiencing individual growing pains, while striving to cope with a joyless militaristic upbringing.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
The sympathetic nuns were convincingly portrayed by Sheila Rose, Emilia Cappelli, Cheyenne Tilton, Beth Flaherty, Jean Holenko, Mercedes Giambatista, and Betsy Gately as the Mother Superior.
However, it was Oak Bluffs sixth grader Katherine Reid as the plucky Maria who carried the production with her marvelous voice and her multi-faceted performance. She acted with confidence, taking the audience through Maria's evolution from daydreaming innocent to courageous young woman. Her singing was strong and faultless.
The show opened with the nuns taking a nice comedic turn on "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," complete with a humorous soft shoe.
The problem in question, Maria, then transported the audience with her joyous rendition of "The Sound of Music." When she ventured into the audience, Ms. Reid's singing was emotive and mature, even without the aid of stage microphones. As she spread her arms and twirled ecstatically, Maria's joie de vivre was evident and contagious - and Ms. Reid's performance held the audience captivated for the rest of the show.
Binney holds court as "Uncle" Max Dettweiler.
The sets by Dave Caron and Shelagh Smilie were simple, yet effective: an impressive window treatment represented the Von Trapp household's opulence; and the Nonnenberg Abbey was adorned with an austere stained glass window.
The choreography was also well staged, especially during "No Way to Stop It," when the hapless Captain Von Trapp was being spun around into submission by family friend Max Dettweiler (Oak Bluffs principal Laury Binney) and Elsa, the Captain's jilted fiancé. During the thunderstorm scene, as Maria tries to calm the children with a song, a small troupe of dancers took over center stage to enact the tale, "The Lonely Goatherd," a folk story charmingly interpreted in a mix of ballet and modern dance.
Providing the music from the pit was musical director Brian Weiland on guitar, Anne Davey on piano, and Mr. Weiland's nine-year-old son, Liam, on drums.
Some of the musical highlights included the tender, "So Long, Farewell" with each of the Von Trapp children (including a sleepy Gretl) taking a star turn, and the lilting "Edelweiss," performed first by the Captain and Maria as a round, and then delivered by the entire Von Trapp clan - uniting sweetly on the final plea, "Bless my homeland forever."
The wedding scene was particularly lush as the bride and groom proceeded down the theater aisle, followed by the joyful children and other celebrants. As the procession made its way through the audience, the nuns formed a line on stage and joyfully reprised the opening song.
The biggest laugh of the show was provided by Jean Holenko, portraying the absolutely beside-herself Fraulein Schweiger, second prize winner at the Kalzburg Festival. She hysterically bowed, hugged the emcee repeatedly like a game show winner, distracting the Nazis and allowing the Von Trapp family time to slip away unnoticed.
The abbreviated version of the popular show moved along quickly. The musical numbers, which dominated this production, were kept short and accompanied by well-rehearsed choreography. It was a happy crowd that left the Oak Bluffs School on Friday night, many most likely humming one of the tunes from the classic musical.
Gwyn McCallister is a regular contributor to The Martha's Vineyard Times.