Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The Sound of Music" at BrightSide Theatre

by Craig Gustafson

For the final weekend of The Sound of Music at BrightSide Theatre, you'll need to go Friday or Saturday because Sunday is sold out.

The famous book by Lindsay and Crouse, eclipsed by the even more famous music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, concerns Maria, a novice nun booted from an Austrian convent to be governess for seven unruly children of a cold, strict, widowed naval captain.  She brings her guitar.  Music ensues. Just when you think everything will end Happily Ever After, Nazis take charge.

Songs include the title tune, Climb Every Mountain, No Way to Stop It, My Favorite Things, How Can Love Survive?, Do Re Mi, The Lonely Goatherd, Edelweiss and many others.

Jeffrey Cass' staging of a big musical on a small stage is pretty nifty.  Flats on platforms are rolled in and out in multiple configurations. It's extremely well done and looks terrific.

Standing: Skylar McClure, Tessa Newman,  Hope Elizabeth Schafer,
Max McNeal Martin, and DJ EmmaSeated: Sophie LoGalbo, Meg McGarry, Ella Schuler. 

Meg McGarry is magnificent as Maria, as she was at Wheaton Drama a couple of years ago.  She has a gorgeous voice, put to good use by this score.  McGarry also works to make Maria something other than a chipper song machine who has occasional panic attacks.  She is a real human being, due to McGarry's dead-on acting instincts.  She has great chemistry with the children and with the Mother Abbess, speaking of which:

Michelle Hackman and Meg McGarry

Michelle Hackman as the Mother Abbess is a likable actress with an incredible voice.  Yes, I know, "That's what you need for this role."  That doesn't mean you'll always get one.  Hackman gives a terrific performance.

Tony Lage and Meg McGarry

The children do a great job.  Meaning: Hope Elizabeth Schafer (Liesel - beautiful voice), Max McNeal Martin (Friedrich), Tessa Newman (Louisa), DJ Emma (Kurt), Skylar McClure (Brigitta)Sophie LoGalbo (Marta) and Ella Schuler (Gretl).  In the group numbers, LoGalbo was the Show Biz one -- and I mean that in a good way.  She was totally committed and enthused to a noticeable extent, but without being obnoxious about it.

John B. Boss is excellent as Max, the Dr. Zachary Smith (Lost in Space, third season) of The Sound of Music.  Benignly manipulative, gracious and charming as long as he gets his own way, Boss is very convincing in Max's efforts to get Captain Von Trapp to go along with the Nazis - not because of any political conviction, but to save the family's life.  Boss knows when to let the twinkle in his eye go dim.

Tony Lage as Captain Von Trapp has a beautiful voice.

Lori Klose, Elizabeth Morgan and Christina Ronna are charming as the nuns who sing How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, an un-Conventional (sorry) song that just avoids being soft shoe number, even though that would be wrong but cool.  Jane Brewer is snappy as Frau Schmidt, the Von Trapp's housekeeper, Christie Coran is classy as Elsa and Frank Zabilica does well with the combination of youthful earnestness and Third Reich rigidity that is Rolf.

The music is well done by music director Michael Kaish and band.

The initial confrontation scene between Maria and Elsa didn't play.  It's been done where it was instant dislike for both of them, with Maria struggling to remain nunlike.  Here, Elsa is marking her territory and Maria is kind of clueless.

At the music festival, Max has some snide comments for the contest runners-up.  It was more like a 2015 night club MC than a 1938 minster of arts.  The comments are funny.  They're also anachronistic.  Since Max is the one who recruited them, he would hardly denigrate them or hurt their feelings.  Speaking of anachronistic:

Ian Scarlato as Herr Zeller.  Decent actor.  But if you're being paid to make like it's 1938, shave off the 2015 style two-week's growth of beard.  When the show is over, it grows back in two weeks.  That type of unwillingness to commit is really annoying.

The band habitually overpowered the actors.  The actors are wearing body mikes, so this should be adjustable.


BrightSide Theatre did a great job with this.  If you are a huge Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, order your tickets now.  You're going to love it.  Especially if you like well done musicals or even just Meg McGarry.

The Sound of Music at BrightSide Theatre in Naperville.  Playing through June 28. For tickets and information, go here:

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