The Barnstable Comedy Club’s “The Sound of Music” is rich with glorious voices, fine acting, and the beauty and power of the songs of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, and the timelessness of the multifaceted plot. The production, directed by Marcia Wytral, with music direction by Geraldine Boles and choreography by Geralyn Moquin, is fresh and light-hearted, emphasizing love, family bonds, and humor, more than the ominous and relentless appropriation of Austria by the Nazis.
(Photos provided by Rachael Kenneally, Barnstable Comedy Club.)
Wytral has brought together an outstanding cast with impressive vocal and acting skills, including Catherine McDonough as Maria, Brett Poulter as Captain Georg von Trapp, Bridget Williams as the Mother Abbess, Meredith Richter as Baroness Elsa Schraeder, and James Batzer as Max Detweiler.
The play opens with a view of Nonnberg Abbey—seemingly solidly constructed of tan stones and multiple stained glass windows. The nuns enter through the sides of the theater, their ethereal singing lifting all hearts. Maria is missing, of course, off in mountains, singing.
McDonough is wonderful as Maria, exuding the earnestness and naiveté of a prospective member of the abbey and the compassion and wisdom of a competent governess. She is convincing as a smitten young lover, too. And, most importantly for a show with so many beloved songs, she has a strong and expressive singing voice and provides very satisfying renditions of “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” and others.
I was particularly impressed with “My Favorite Things,” a song I have grown tired of over the years. McDonough sang this with such authentic enthusiasm, adding emphasis with graceful dance movements, that even I was completely won over.
Williams, who has an excellent voice of her own, joins McDonough on this song, and the result is enchanting. Williams and three of the eight nuns (Mattie White, Sonia Schonning, and Christina O’Sullivan) contemplate Maria’s charms and failings in a well-executed “Maria” (“How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”).
Williams’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is heartfelt, receiving some of the most enthusiastic applause on Friday night.
Contributing in no small way to the success of these and other songs is the show’s mini-orchestra: Boles at the piano, Richard Rubino on flute and clarinet, Patrick McDonough on acoustic guitar, John Dirac on double bass, and Joy Indomenico on violin. Indomenico was one of three violinists who alternate performances; other violinists are Lary Chaplan and Kaline Christie.
It is always nice to have live music, especially in a show like “The Sound of Music,” in which the music is of primary importance. Boles does an excellent job supporting the singers and expressing the emotions of the action, from tender to boisterous to inspirational. I particularly liked the flute flourishes.
Poulter makes a fine Captain von Trapp, a decorated World War I submarine captain in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. He runs his household like a military unit, and is not in favor of his seven children playing or singing, claiming the best exercise for them is marching.
But, as it turns out, von Trapp can sing. And so can Poulter, whose rich baritone takes your breath away, particularly in “The Sound of Music” with the children and in his emotional and tender “Edelweiss.”
As talented as the adults in this show are, it is the children that make the show sparkle with warmth and humor. Hannah Carrita is funny and vulnerable as the eldest child, the rebellious 16-year-old going on 17, Liesl. Chris Thorne is 14-year-old Friedrich, Eleanor Swindler is 13-year-old Louisa, David Rozell is 10-year-old Kurt, Allison Jodoin is 9-year-old Brigitta, Lexi Sky Davidson is 7-year-old Marta, and Mackenzie O’Sullivan is 7-year-old Gretl.
The children are marvelous, each with their own individual charm, infusing new life into “Do-Re-Mi” and bouncing through “The Lonely Goatherd” with Maria. Clever choreography adds to the fun, especially in “So Long, Farewell” (the cuckoo song).
Richter, as Elsa, von Trapp’s fiancée, has a beguiling voice in “How Can Love Survive,” even as we are rooting for her to leave so that Captain von Trapp can find true love with one another.
Max Detweiler is often seems to be a minor character in the show, or one whose main function is to symbolize appeasement of the Germans, as in the raucous “No Way to Stop it.” In this production Batzer creates a Detweiler who is a loud and broadly comic character, reminiscent of a Jewish vaudeville performer. He is very significant to the plot, both collaborating with the Nazis for practical reasons and helping the von Trapps to escape.
Set design is by Dennis Marchant, who has created not only the impressive Abbey set, but also an elegant interior for the von Trapp villa, complete with scenes of the Alps from the window. I wished the terrace set had been more interesting or definitive (it was simply a few trees against the black curtain), perhaps with its own scenes of the Alps, but that is a small complaint about such a fine production.
Costume design, by Christy Morris, is pleasing and well-suited to the show.
“The Sound of Music” was somewhat loosely based on the real-life story of the von Trapp family, as described in Maria von Trapp’s memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” For an interesting discussion of what the real von Trapp family was like, visit Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family.
The show opened on Broadway in November 16, 1959, just about 54 years ago, and ran through June 1963. . The original cast included Mary Martin (at age 46) as Maria and Theodore Bikel as von Trapp. It was made into a movie in 1965, starring Julie Andrews (30 at the time) and Christopher Plummer. The show has continued to thrive through local theater productions, and it is great to be able to see it again, here on the Cape.
“The Sound of Music” continues through November 24 at the Barnstable Comedy Club, 3171 Main Street (Route 6) in Barnstable. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:30 PM. For tickets, call the box office at 508-362-6333. Admission is $20, $18 for seniors (62 and older) and students.