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September 11, 2007 > Theater Review - The Sound of Music

Theater Review - The Sound of Music

The Sound Of Music opens in Newark

By Arnie Becker

Most of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s remember when the Rogers and Hammerstein play "The Sound of Music" came to local theaters as a movie. Many also remember the live play and how much we enjoyed the music, laughter and felt sadness when the Von Trapp family decided to escape over the mountains from their homeland. Based on the real life story of the Von Trapp family, the story touches one's heart in so many ways. Although historic details of the von Trapp family were altered for the musical, the message remains intact. "The Sound of Music" opened Friday, September 7, at Stage 1 Theatre in Newark with almost identical style and energy as the original New York presentation.

In the town of Salzburg, Austria, just before World War II, Maria, studying for the Roman Catholic sisterhood, has begun to doubt her calling. She is sent to be a governess for the seven children of Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp, a widower and decorated World War I captain of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. The children, initially hostile and mischievous, soon come to like the courageous Maria as she loosens the Captain's strict policies and brings warmth, including the joy of singing, back into the household. She falls in love with the stern Captain but tries to suppress her feelings, since he is engaged to Baroness Elsa Schr?der. He too finds himself warming to the unconventional governess. Captain von Trapp is called to duty in the navy of the Third Reich, but Maria and the Captain arrange to surreptitiously leave the country following a family concert.

Opening night was almost sold out and shortly after the play began, it was obvious why so many people had come to hear and see this local production. Singers and orchestra did an excellent job and Merilee Pattersen Rieta, as Maria, lit up the stage with her presence. Her singing was flawless; sweet and clear, strong and soft. The children were charming and each had an excellent voice and strong stage presence.

Songs from the musical have become popular standards and include "The Sound of Music", "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Every Mountain", and "Do-Re-Mi." For this writer, "Climb Every Mountain," a strong and emotional song, sends a universal message stating that, with effort, you can accomplish personal and even very difficult goals.

Directed and choreographed by Sue Ellen Nelsen, Stage 1's The Sound of Music is produced by Kimberley Andrews and Debbie Otterstetter with musical direction by Tristam Duncan. Combined with a talented cast, they have recreated the original play with the same tenderness, feeling, warmth and charm as the original. Leading members of the cast include Jess Martinez as Captain Von Trapp, Jennifer Panko as Mother Abbess and Merilee Pettersen Rieta as Maria.

Other major cast members who added to a sparkling performance include Matthew Horry as Rolf, Olivia Hytha as Brigitta, Ryker Johnson as Kurt, Madilyn Jaz Morrow as Gretl, Robert Moss as Max, Lisa Pan as Elsa, Jami Wallace as Sister Margaretta, Michael Campbell, as Admiral Von Schreiber, Kendall Andrews as Liesl, Leah Keating as Marta, Tom Leona as Franz and Austin Weir as Friedrich.

At the end of the performance, the audience gave the cast a standing ovation signaling their pleasure at the overall production of this wonderful musical.

The Sound of Music continues weekends September 14 and 15 at 8 pm, September 16 at 2:30 pm and September 21 and 22 at 8 pm.

The Sound of Music
Friday & Saturday, Sept 14 - 22
8 p.m.
Stage 1 Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(Newark Memorial High School)
(510) 791-0287

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