— Alison MacDonald (C) & cast of Gateway Theatre's The Sound of Music. Photo by David Cooper Photography
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The floodplain is alive with the sound of music as Richmond’s Gateway Theatre goes with the spiritual uplift of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 classic for the holidays. Director Chris McGregor has put together a huge, handsome production with a cast of 28 plus 10 piece orchestra and a perfect Maria in Alison MacDonald.
MacDonald has a sweet, effortless voice and really knows how to sell a song like “My Favorite Things,” avoiding the saccharine and getting a big laugh on “schnitzel with noodles” without even trying. Just as importantly, she knows how to play the combination of irreverent spunk and good-girl conformity that makes Maria an ideal pre-feminist heroine. Too free-spirited for the nunnery but beloved by the mother superior, she liberates the seven von Trapp children from their father’s sick militaristic discipline then marries him. And intrepidly leads the family over the Alps to escape from the Nazis.
There’s a lot to like about this show, especially in the long first act that contains all the great songs: the title number and “My Favorite Things,” “(How Do You Solve a Problem Like) Maria,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Climb Every Mountain.”
Ranae Miller as Liesl, the oldest von Trapp kid, and Sayer Roberts as her boyfriend Rolf do especially nice work with “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” which also showcases Dawn Ewen’s choreography.
The other six children (Bridget Esler, Rachel Harrison, Gabriel Schwartz-Dardick, Libby Seltzer, Michael Wilkinson and little Taylor Dianne Robinson) are sufficiently cute and sing well enough that the various versions of “Do-Re-Mi” are as delightful as you hope they’ll be. The strong, sympathetic Mother Abbess (Colleen Winton) and her nuns provide the show’s most beautiful singing in their Latin choral chants. Kudos to musical director Allen Stiles.
As Captain von Trapp, Ian Butcher acts much better than he sings. Allan Zinyk plays the Captain’s friend Max, comic moocher and choral producer, at his scene-stealing broadest.
This Sound of Music features excellent production values. Drew Facey’s versatile set transforms easily from the nunnery to the von Trapp home. He also uses old-fashioned flats very imaginatively. One moment they hold projected images of the Austrian Alps; the next, simple red drop-cloths turn them into the walls of a Nazi concert hall.
Carmen Alatorre has provided dozens of vivid period costumes and Sharon Huizinga’s lighting is effectively moody when it needs to be and appropriately unobtrusive otherwise.
Although the second act feels anti-climactic and the conclusion a little rushed, both in the script and production, this is a fine family show for the holiday season and a great opportunity to get in touch with your inner glockenspiel.