I love going to see high school musicals in Chenango County, I really do. It’s something I look forward to every year. But once in a while, when I find out which musical a particular group of young thespians is staging, I can’t help but groan. Loudly.
I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve seen a handful of tried-and-true musicals way too many times. So when I found out that Sherburne-Earlville was doing “The Sound of Music” this weekend, I really considered passing this story off to one of my minions ... err, reporters.
But I’m glad I didn’t. Yes, while my first reaction was that I’d rather climb the Alps myself than sit through another two-plus hours of those grating VonTrapp children, I forget one of the lessons I try to pass on in the newsroom – try to approach every story with fresh eyes.
And that’s exactly what this weekend’s production at S-E does; it puts a fresh spin on a classic tale by featuring the burgeoning talents of the Marauder troupe. We all know the story – nun-in-training Maria is a flibbertygibet, a will o’ the wisp, a clown ... so the Mother Abbess paroles her to nanny the seven aforementioned VonTrapp leibchen, who’ve been beaten into submission by Daddy Dearest. Of course Maria’s upbeat, infectious attitude (and incessant singing) endear her to the lederhosen crowd, melt the Captain’s heart, stymie the cruel Baroness and defeat Hitler’s army. Sorta.
OK, Jeff, we’ve established that you’re not a fan of the show. Move on.
“It’s a classic, it never goes out of style,” Director Anne Caton told me in a pre-show interview. Can’t argue with that. But press on, I did. Playing devil’s advocate, I asked Anne to tell me why Joe Schmoe should come see this weekend’s show when he’s seen “Sound of Music” 184,000 times before. And by Joe Schmoe, I mean me.
“Most people haven’t seen the stage production,” Anne astutely pointed out. (I have, but I let her make her point). “There are lots of changes from the stage show to the movie and vice versa,” she said, referring of course to the 1965 Julie Andrews-Christopher Plummer pic. “There are different songs, different dialogue ... if you have preconceived notions, you might be surprised by the show.”
Me? Preconceived notions? Perish the thought. Time for my attitude adjustment as the curtain opened.
S-E’s “Sound of Music” opens with an impressive array of nunnery – 25 of them, to be exact – culled, I’m told, from students, staff and alumni. In the starring role of Maria Rainer, Hannah Weinell is a joy to watch on stage. Not only does she have an impressive set of pipes, but she also perfectly captures Maria’s flighty, ever-positive nature. In a show that depends heavily on you rooting for a single character, Ms. Weinell carries it off with aplomb.
She’s paired here with Jeffrey Taylor as the stern Capt. Von Trapp, who matches her in contrast – where she’s light and airy, he’s dark and sad. Taylor effectively gets us to care for Georg, whose grief over the loss of his wife leads him to keep his children at bay – until, of course, they start feelin’ that “Sound of Music.” He melts appropriately when he sees the joy that singing brings to his brood.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Sound of Music” doesn’t just rely on the chemistry of the adults, of course. The VonTrapp progeny comprise the glue that brings it all together. This weekend, I guarantee you’ll be delighted by Megan Matott, Brad Ward, Rachel Taylor, Vinny Taylor, Mikaila Girshin, Angel Sheeley (perhaps the hardest-working VonTrapp of all) and Georgina Godfrey. From “Do Re Mi” to “The Lonely Goatherd” (although I will die a happy man if I never hear that song again) to “So Long, Farewell” the VonTrapp troupe lights up the stage.
It’s no secret that my favorite characters are always the villains. While “Sound of Music” is largely saccharin sweet, the character of Baroness Elsa Schrader always brings the bad. Here, she’s played to bitchy perfection by Emilee Smith. Love her.
The Sherburne-Earlville cast also features the talents of Geana Giglio, Joelle Clark, Shannon Staley, Elizabeth Parrow, Alex Rodriguez, Taylor Morris, Chris Weinell, Brian Martin, Ethan Cameron, James Behret, Catherine Behret, Tammie Crane, Matt Smith and S-E administrators Gayle Hellert and Tom Strain.
Featured as VonTrapp neighbors, nuns, novices and postulants are Jonna Bartlett, Erin Brown, Wendy Brown, Joe Corey, Tammie Craine, Kendall Drexler, Zoe Enscoe, Kayla Geier, Lori Geier, Mike Harlost, Marni Horton, Heidi Johnson, Mick Khoury, Krystal Larish, Mary Longman, Bobby Marvin, Tricia Meyer, Haley Muth, Emily Palmer, Megan Rogers, Sylvia Sabin, Matt Smith, Liza Taylor, Lucy Taylor and Caitlyn Weinell.
So yeah, don’t be like jaded ol’ me and assume you’ll get nothing out of seeing “The Sound of Music” one more time. Escape for a while to 1938 Austria (and then try escaping the Nazis!); you’ll be glad you did.
Show times are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. in the S-E auditorium. Tickets will be sold at the door.