REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHERYL THORNBURG
@MercArtsCheryl on Twitter
Dynamic performances, the unforgettable music of Rogers & Hammerstein and a talented group of young actors make Steel River Playhouse’s production of “The Sound of Music” a perfect holiday outing for the entire family.
The beloved musical, which won five Tony Awards, tells the true of the von Trapp family and their daring escape from Austria when the Nazis took over the country in 1939.
While the background setting is basically tense, it is primarily one of the best-loved love stories in musical theater as a naïve young postulate, Maria, leaves the Abbey and goes to work as a governess for the seven children of the handsome, widowed Captain Georg von Trapp.
The key to the success of this show is a warm and effervescent Maria, and Abigail Allwein totally fills the bill. Her free-spirited Maria is endearing and her delivery of some of the most memorable songs from the show such as “The Sound of Music,” and “My Favorite Things,” is sheer perfection.
Andrew Skitko plays the stern Captain von Trapp with just a hint of softness when dealing with his younger children. Vocally, he brings a warmth and richness to numbers such as “Edelweiss” and “Something Good,” a duet with Maria.
The nuns of Nonnberg Abbey deliver both haunting religious music and the delightful “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” with ease. Sharon Eyster as the Mother Abbess gives an exquisite performance of “Climb Every Mountain,” the most poignant and powerful song from the show.
The other nuns are played by Amanda Morell as Sister Margaretta, Emilie Reimer as Sister Sophie, Kathryn Tilley as Sister Berthe and some of the ensemble actors.
Stealing every scene they are in are the Captain’s children: Trent Soto as Friedrich, Jocelyn Shank as Louisa, Wyeth Casperite as Kurt, Jordan McAndrew as Brigitta , Charleston O’Donnell as Marta (played on alternate shows by Isabella Yackanicz), and Olivia Reitz as the youngest, Gretl, (Carly Silberman plays the role for alternate performances.) As is often the case, the littlest is the biggest scene-stealer in the show and Olivia was an audience favorite on opening night. Jordon also captured the audience’s hearts as the truth-telling Brigitta. The children’s group numbers, “Do-Re Mi” and in particular, “So Long, Farewell,” are a highlight of the show.
Getting a separate spotlight at times is Katie Stahl as the feisty Liesl, the eldest of the children. She and Michael Styer as Rolf, the delivery boy who turns Nazi, have engaging chemistry as the young lovers when they sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”
Megan Eckley is elegant as Baroness Elsa von Schraeder, who intends to marry the captain, but when she gets to sing she really shines. She showcases her vocal skills in the upbeat “How can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It,” with the Captain and Ben Fried as Max, his friend. Fried is charming as the self-serving music producer who wants the von Trapp children to perform at a music festival.
Adding a special touch to the show are Payson Burt as Franz, the Captain’s butler and Kristin Weigand as Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper. These two have a gift for comedy and create interesting, full characters, often without saying a word during the set changes.
The talented ensemble cast includes Lilea Burt, Philip Seader, Charles Delaney, Jim McAndrew, Susan Lowry, Olivia Swenson, Lindsay Lohr, Gena Silberman and Tina Kissinger. They play multiple roles that include nuns, Nazis and party guests. Seader also served as assistant director for the show.
The cast is backed up by a live orchestra conducted by Barbara Newberry.
The show is directed by Steel River’s Artistic Director Gene Terruso with musical direction by Heidi Starr. Choreography is by Stace Michaud, scenic design by Chris Whelan, lighting by Jerry Jonas and costumes by Ally Boughter.
“The Sound of Music” continues at Steel River Playhouse, 245 E. High St., Pottstown, through Sunday, Dec. 14.
Tickets are $15 to $27 and are available online at www.steelriver.org, or by calling the box office at 610-970-1199.