News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
‘The Sound of Music’: Sweet sounds of Broadway
BY JESSE SCOTT
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Do you hear that sound?
It’s the sound of leaves changing, the Virginia weather gently turning brisk and families preparing to gather around the fireplace.
It’s the sound of everyone coming together.
There is no better complement to this beautiful time of year than “The Sound of Music.”
The Broadway classic, which opened on Saturday, will reside at Riverside Dinner Theater, Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 6, 2013.
“It’s a chance to experience the joy of music and the joy of [“The Sound of Music’s”] songs,” said Rollin Wehman, general manager, artistic director and founder of Riverside Dinner Theater. He is also the director of Riverside’s rendition of “The Sound of Music.” “Whether you’ve heard the songs one time or a thousand times, you will find joy through the magic of our show.”
From “My Favorite Things” to “Do-Re-Mi” to “Edelweiss,” “The Sound of Music” is loaded with musical classics that have been cherished for the last 50-plus years. The beloved musical has been a hit on Broadway and in London, and in 1965 was morphed into a blockbuster Academy Award-winning film starring Julie Andrews.
The plot follows budding nun Maria Rainer as she is assigned to take care of the seven children of the widower Capt. Georg von Trapp in Salzburg, Austria.
Along her roller coaster journey with the seven von Trapp children, Maria goes from the misfit caretaker who is gently teased by her nun colleagues to a beloved governess who finds genuine love with Capt. von Trapp.
At the heart of the Riverside production are two casts of von Trapp children and an incredibly gifted group of nuns. The two groups of children will alternate nights throughout the season.
“The children are endearing and spontaneous. The kids really do run the spontaneity of the show, and it is wonderful,” said Patrick A’Hearn, associate artistic director of Riverside Dinner Theater. “Our group of nuns is also just terrific, and their voices are beautiful.”
“Of the 11 nuns in our cast, three are choral directors, two are drama directors and almost all of them are heavily involved in artistic endeavors,” added Wehman. “They all know how to sing. My primary job has been to get them singing in a matching blend.”
This is the third time that “The Sound of Music” has appeared at Riverside. The musical was one of the first to grace Riverside’s stage in 1999 and also played in 2007.
According to Wehman, “The Sound of Music” isn’t back just by popular demand, but to allow a new cast to make its own mark on the classic production.
“You tend to make changes based on the predominant strengths of various cast members,” said Wehman. “Just as we did for ‘Chicago,’ we’ve extended the stage farther out into the audience, and there is a bit more choreographic movement that really comes alive.”
One standout member of the cast, Capt. von Trapp, is played by Spotsylvania resident and Riverside veteran Thomas Cleary. He is enjoying his first lead role at Riverside after years of serving on the technical side and having smaller parts in productions.
“I’m usually the loud, obnoxious guy onstage,” said Cleary. “But now I get to play a father of seven. I like it because it’s out of my comfort zone, and as a performer, that is a very good thing. It’s like stretching my capabilities.”
Like many of his fellow cast members, Cleary has enjoyed working with Wehman as his director. Wehman knows what it takes, as a director, to make an impression on audiences and perfect the sound of a show’s music.
“I’m a real stickler for music,” said Wehman. “We recently had a distinguished critic from San Diego stop by our show and said it was one of the best versions of ‘Sound of Music’ that he’s ever seen. We hope our audiences feel the same way.”
What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: Riverside Dinner Theater, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg
When: Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 6, 2013
Info: 540/370–4300; riversidedt.com
Jesse Scott is a freelance writer and Fredericksburg native. Email him at