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Theater review: ‘Sound of Music’ is a timeless treat
BY AMANDA MONTAG
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
It is hard to go wrong with “The Sound of Music” anytime of the year, but Riverside Center Dinner Theater timed it right, offering the Broadway musical during the holiday season.
There are no surprises in the staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.” Everything in the play can also be found in the movie, but the stage version includes some added scenes and musical numbers featuring Elsa (The Baroness) and Max that help flesh out their characters and motives a bit more than the popular 1965 movie did.
The play also loses some scenes, such as the children going to the abbey looking for Maria and the puppet show that went along with “The Lonely Goatherd.”
A couple songs are in different places, with Maria singing “My Favorite Things” with the Reverend Mother and the “Goatherd” song being used to calm the children during a thunderstorm.
Leading the cast as Maria is Maija–Liisa Nielsen, a veteran of the role, having also performed it in Riverside’s 1999 and 2005 productions. She carries the weight of the play and portrays the role brilliantly, giving Maria just the right amount of playfulness, vulnerability and charm needed for the part.
Joining her is Thomas Cleary as Capt. Von Trapp, the overbearing naval commander. The two play well off each other. Cleary shows great range in taking the character from stiff and rigid formality to the more open and loving father he becomes as the story progresses.
Nielsen and Cleary really shine together during the musical number “Something Good,” when they finally confess their feelings for each other. Watching that almost made me feel like I was spying on a truly personal moment between two people.
What really made this production memorable was the delightful cast of the Von Trapp children. (Two separate casts of children are used at Riverside.) This night, the “Diamond” group performed.
All of the child actors had moments during which they sparkled, but some stood out just a bit more. Two of my favorites were Abigayle Anderson as Brigitta and Evelyn Gansler as Gretl.
Brigitta always had a little more wisdom than the other siblings, and Anderson brought that out stupendously in the role. And 5-year-old Gansler was cute (as expected) and charming. She tended to steal the scenes when she was on the stage.
With young actors you expect some stumbling of lines or placement, but the cast nailed everything perfectly and was a true joy to watch.
Shana Oshiro brought a wonderful soprano voice to the Reverend Mother and, though younger than you would typically picture the role being cast, she filled those mature shoes with grace.
The set design team for Riverside did an excellent job with the background scenes of the production. From towering windows at the Abbey to the terrace outside the Von Trapp villa, everything complimented the scenes perfectly.
The seamless transitions between acts and the colorful, believable sets helped allow audience members to feel as if they were in Austria during World War II, right there near the famous hills “alive with music.” But, for this show, Riverside’s production team did not stop at the stage. Instead, much of the theater was used for several scenes during the performance, which added to the nostalgic experience of being a part of a much-loved, timeless story as it comes to life.
Holidays are meant to be spent with family, and Riverside’s “The Sound of Music” is certainly something that everyone can enjoy together.
WANT TO GO?
What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: Riverside Center Dinner Theater, Stafford
When: Through Jan. 6
Info: 540/ 370-4300; riversidedt.com