If you see Moorestown Theater Company’s production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and don’t know in advance, you may be surprised, even amazed, to learn that the cast is made up entirely of young people aged 5 to16. Such is the mature quality of their performances. Director Frankie Rowles has assembled this cast from students at local schools, from elementary to high school. Their talent and that of the makeup crew for the “older” characters make this a show to remember.
In case there’s anyone who doesn’t know, the play is based on the true story of the Austrian von Trapp family singers. Like most “based on” works, the book has altered many of the facts but stuck to the basic truth of the story. Abbey postulant Maria Rainer wants to be a nun, but her natural exuberance makes her an unlikely candidate for convent life. As the Mother Abbess and sisters wonder, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” The solution chosen by the Mother Abbess is to send her to be a temporary governess to the seven motherless children of Captain Georg von Trapp. Their father, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Navy, uses military tactics to manage the children. They wear uniforms and respond to signals from a boatswain’s whistle. Maria teaches them to sing with the well-known “Do-Re-Mi,” and they learn to loosen up and have fun.
The Captain goes away for a month and returns with his prospective bride, Baroness Elsa Schraeder, and a music festival organizer, Max Detweiler. Furious at the change in his children, the Captain orders Maria back to the abbey. But when the children start singing “The Sound of Music” to welcome Elsa, he softens up, embraces the children, and thanks Maria for bringing music back to the house. At a party to welcome Elsa, the Captain and Maria dance together to show the steps to one of the children, and she is embarrassed and confused at her feelings for him. Later she slips away and returns to the abbey. But the Mother Abbess, realizing that Maria is running away from her feelings, urges her to face them and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Maria returns to the von Trapp house, to the joy of the children. Elsa and Max try to persuade the Captain to compromise with the rising Third Reich, and when he refuses, she breaks their engagement. This leaves the Captain and Maria free to admit their love and eventually marry.
When they return from their honeymoon, they find that Max has prepared the children to sing in the Kaltzberg Festival. The Captain opposes this because the festival has Nazi connections, but when he is offered a commission in the German Navy, he has no choice but to stall it off by saying he cannot make a decision until after the entire family has appeared in the festival. After they perform and while Max is announcing the festival winners, the family escapes.
There are two alternating casts, although some of the performers are in both. One of these is Kalynn Niroda, who plays Maria. She is a fine actress with a truly lovely voice. Jack Morgan, also in both casts, projects believable maturity as the Captain. There are many fine performances, too numerous to mention.
In addition to the principals, there is a large chorus, including numerous children, playing villagers. Working with so many people is an awesome undertaking, and there cannot be too much praise for director Rowles, vocal director Josh Dowiak, music director and accompanist Beverly Bennett, and choreographer Kaitlin Tumulty. Plus the production crew, which included the parents of many cast members. As always, teamwork and talent make the show.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Frankie Rowles
December 1-11, 2011
Moorestown Theater Company
Moorestown Upper Elementary School
324 Borton Landing Road
Moorestown, NJ 08057