Artisan Center Theater
Directed by Bill Sizemore
Producer: Dee Ann Blair
Stage Manager: Branson White
Musical Director: Richard Gwozdz
Choreographer: Jennifer Leyva
Costume Design: Nita Cadenhead
Props: Tammie Phillips
Set Design: Bill Sizemore, Jason Leyva
Scenic Design: Lily Strapp
Lighting Design: Branson White, Adam Livingston
CAST-*THIS PLAY IS DOUBLE CAST*
Maria Rainer - Morgan Mabry Mason
Captain Georg von Trapp - Brian Sears
Liesl - Mandy Foster
Friedrich - T.J. Little
Louisa - Bonnie Gentry
Kurt - Brandon Shreve
Brigitta - Omega Priddy
Marta - Camryn Wright
Gretl - Eleanor Sebastian
Rolf Gruber - Jacob Matheny
Baroness Elsa Schraeder - Jessica Mize
Max Detweiler - Eric Gentry
Frau Schmidt - Janette Oswald
Franz, the Butler - Adam Livingston
Mother Abbess - Gena Robbins
Sister Sophia - Meredith Jeppson
Sister Margaretta - Donna Cates
Sister Bertha - Nichole Hostetler
Admiral von Schreiber - Travis Miller
Herr Zeller - Dan Johnston
Baron Elberfeld/German Soldier - Connor Thompson
Bishop - Chris Seil
Ensemble - Tevin Cates, David Seil, Katie Womble, Stephanie Rucker, Lan Mei, Allison Duncan, Victoria Savill, Natalia May, Melina Quintanar, Mary Miller
Reviewed Performance 6/3/2011
Reviewed by Bonnie K. Daman, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
What could be more classic than Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music? I was actually naive enough to think that just about anybody could sing "Do-Re-Mi" or hum along to "My Favorite Things." The timeless story of the von Trapp family has pleased audiences, film and theatre-goers alike for decades and yet there were a handful of visitors at the Artisan Center Theater this past Friday who were there to experience it for the first time. Lesson learned. However this is why I love community theatre! Its places like Artisan that thrive and succeed at bringing these iconic shows to audiences young and old...and they do a pretty darn good job doing it.
As a theatre in the round Artisan never ceases to amaze me at their use of space. The use of props and the frequent set changes were heavily relied upon to establish or revisit a place or scene as the story moved instead of relying on stagnant pieces. Thanks to Director Bill Sizemore's and Jason Leyva's set design, and under the guidance of Stage Manager Branson White the movement from scene to scene flowed easily throughout the show - from the balustrades used to define the boundaries of the terrace to the full-sized bed that glided out of the northwest corner of the stage.
What was more evident were a couple of new dimensions and levels to the set that I have not seen built before in this space. So as not to spoil it I will say that all eyes and heads were turned to catch the closing scene, and together with the exquisite backdrops and scenic designs created by Lily Stapp, it surged into a majestic portrait worthy of this show's climatic ending.
As an assist to utilizing the different dimensions and designs, the lighting was appropriate in confining which space was being occupied. More effectively were the scenes where lighting was used to "freeze frame" all outside disruptions so that a specific actor or action could be emphasized.
Nita Cadenhead, as Costume Designer, recreated some of the classic looks from the film. From the curtains-turned-play clothes complete with lederhosen to the children's uniforms, the costume department had their hands full with the amount of changes needed for each character.
Choreographer Jennifer Leyva was delicate in her choreography, adding just the right amount to the musical numbers. The tender dance between Rolf and Leisl was appropriate and effortless for the two young actors who seemed to enjoy the tryst (although one of the villa benches may need to be weighed down a bit more).
I was most impressed by Leyva's ability to choreograph spontaneity with the children for "The Lonely Goatherd." Like organized chaos, the scene worked like a charm!
At the helm Director Bill Sizemore set the tone for his show when he wrote in the playbill about preserving the special memories that each person brings when they experience The Sound of Music. Sizemore's cast played to all angles of the audience giving them front row access to the actors and to the music, drawing you in so much so that you had the urge to sing along. At the appropriate times even the audience became a part of the show applauding for the characters.
Morgan Mabry Mason, as the delightful and wide-eyed Maria Rainer, deserved utmost accolades for carrying this three hour show. Mason was strong, uninhibited and a joy to watch. Her transition into a maturing young woman who fell in love with the rigid Captain von Trapp was seamless, most notably as the two danced together near the end of Act I. For such an iconic role, I was thrilled to see Miss Mason portray her own playful version of Maria rather than channeling Julie Andrews. Her singing was effortless and I was pleasantly surprised at her comedic timing.
Brian Sears as Von Trapp seemed a good fit to Mason's Maria - regal, stubborn and in the end a caring father with love and pride for country. My one regret was that at times I was unable to hear Sears as clearly within the musical numbers. Whether it was technical or due to the low register of his voice, such as in "Edelweiss", when his voice did come through it was smooth, clear and full of emotion. I applaud both adults however for their interaction with the young members of the cast. I felt as if I was watching a true family unit and could only imagine the relationships that these actors created between each other to accomplish such a bond onstage.
Speaking of the young cast members - cue the cuteness and sighs and "awes" from the audience - I think one of the appeals of seeing a show like The Sound of Music live is largely due to the seven characters all under the age of 16. I saw in this group exactly what Sizemore wrote about in the program notes: that they were "genuinely having fun." I never saw them break character. They played and sang with full abandon and were completely in the moment. As for their individual talents, whether scripted or by direction, Sizemore was able to highlight each of the young actors. The DFW theatre community should look out because Artisan is molding and producing some fine talent for the next generation of players.
Other standouts were Jacob Matheny as Rolf the young teen who was caught between being a boy and becoming man, with the coming of war and his love for the eldest Von Trapp daughter. Matheny and Mandy Foster as Liesl shared a brief emotional moment within the climax of the finale that tugs at the heartstrings. Along the same lines the one scene that truly gave me goose bumps was the Mother Abbess' (Gena Robbins) powerful performance of "Climb Every Mountain." Robbins' dynamic vocals and the visual connection between her character and Maria were divine.
Rounding out the lead cast were Jessica Mize and Eric Gentry as Baroness Elsa Schraeder and Max Detweiler, respectively. Mize was pristine and proper as the Baroness and not over the top as I've seen the role played before. Gentry's lovable and sometimes pleasantly conniving "Uncle Max" partnered beautifully with Mize.
Only four weeks are left to experience this charming show and cast at Artisan Center Theater and I believe I am among the first of many to leave with my heart blessed and with a renewed love for The Sound of Music.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Artisan Center Theater, 418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, Texas 76053
Runs through July 2
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays @ 7:30 pm
Saturday matinees @ 3:00 pm
For tickets or more info please call 817-284-1200 or go to www.artisanct.com