Director – John Wilkerson
Music Director – John Wilkerson
Choreography – Jennifer Leyva
Light Design – Jason Leyva
Set Design – John Wilkerson
Sound Design – Phyllis Huaute
Stage Manager – Jason Leyva
Pianists – Kelly Pfaffenberger, Michael Plantz
Maria Rainer – Heidi Lewis
Captain Von Trapp – John Wilkerson
Liesl – Sarah Wagoner
Frederich – Collin Tooley
Louisa – Danielle Downs
Kurt – Gabriel Magana
Brigitta – Ingrid Fease
Marta – Paige Radle
Gretl – Reagan Pfaffenberger
Mother Abbess – Pat Moore
Sister Margaretta – Rachel Massey
Sister Berthe – Susan Reeves
Sister Sophia – Amy Cave
Elsa Schrader – Margaret Shafer
Max Detweiler – Bill Sizemore
Franz – Ron Reeves
Frau Schmidt – Louise Childs
Rolf – Shafer Wilkerson
Herr Zeller – Steve Cave
Frau Zeller – Rena Davis
Baron Elberfeld – Aaron Massey
Baroness Elberfeld – Paige Davis
Ursula – Carmen Magana
New Postulant – Katie Purdin
Admiral Von Schreiber – Marcus Miller
Fraulein Schweiger – Caroline Bossalini
Party Guest and Nazi Soldier – Christian Jenco
Trio of the Saengerbund Herwegen – Maggie Bossalini/Carmen Magana/
Sisters of the Nonnberg Abbey – Caroline Bossalini, Maggie Bossalini, Caroline Cave, Louise Childs, Paige Davis, Rena Davis, Lindsey Duffin, Elisa Farrell, Tori Gilchrist, Carmen Magana, McKenna Milton, Katie Purdin, Kaitlin Reynders and Maddy Young
Reviewed Performance 11/15/2013
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Many timeless songs originate from this classic musical about the Von Trapp family, songs that I grew up listening to and recognize whenever I hear them played. Though this musical is entertaining, it also has history to it, showing us some of what this family endured when the Germans occupied Austria.
The musical relates the story of Maria Rainer, a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey who is sent to the home of the Von Trapp’s to be a governess for the seven children of Captain Von Trapp. There, she comes to learn more about life and happiness while also teaching the children and their father the importance of love, freedom and about living life to its fullest.
One of the main things I appreciated about this performance was Director John Wilkerson’s creation of images through the blocking. Each picture the actors created through their movements and interactions told a story, a story that I found myself wanting to know even though I had seen and performed in this musical before. One of the main images that I remember was of the nuns while they were singing during the processional, entering from the side of the stage in 2 lines. Another image was of the children performing during the dinner scene, for “So Long, Farewell”. These and other scenes made the show very engaging, and made me see the musical in a whole new light.
John Wilkerson also designed an exceptional set for this production. Consisting of three main pieces, they created the walls of the abbey and, when rotated, showed the house where the Von Trapp family lives. Other pieces were introduced throughout the show such as couches, tables and chairs, essential in showing the audience each location. The beautiful backdrop showing the snowy mountains in Austria, which was visible throughout most of the performance, was amazing.
The choreography was creatively designed by Jennifer Leyva. Though there were no full dance numbers other than “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “The Landler”, there was movement in most of the other numbers which made them much more interesting to watch. “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” had some beautiful choreography as did “The Landler” and “How Can Love Survive”. All the choreography added to the show and kept me engaged.
The sound came in two parts, the sound design created by Phyllis Huaute and the pianists, Kelly Pfaffenberger and Michael Plantz. The sound itself was fairly decent throughout the show, though there were many times the piano overpowered the singers. The piano playing, however, was amazing and added a fun dimension to the musical. Having live music really drew me into the story.
The lighting design created by Jason Leyva made everything easily visible onstage and added the appropriate feel to the show. When the Von Trapp family is hiding from the Nazis, the stage was darkened slightly to mimic the night air in the abbey garden. As the family is singing at the competition the lights brighten slightly to better portray the stage lights of a choral competition.
Maria Rainer, the spirited young woman who started at the abbey as a postulant and later moved to the Von Trapp family home, was delightfully played by Heidi Lewis. Lewis’s performance was strong, engaging and showed a very definite relationship with the other characters onstage, especially with the younger children. Her prayer for them seemed so sincere and her immediate acceptance of the children, despite their tricks, seemed so genuine. Lewis really showcased her character’s compassion with how she comforted them during the thunder storm, inviting them to be with her and speaking to them with a very bright tone. Her singing was also strong and pleasant to listen to, especially when she was performing the numbers “The Sound of Music” and “An Ordinary Couple”, both in which she conveyed powerful emotion.
John Wilkerson played the part of Captain Von Trapp, the strict father of seven young children, who through the help of Maria, comes to know his children better. Wilkerson had a fabulous voice and a very strong presence onstage, both of which he was able to put to good use in this role. Wilkerson appropriately exuded an aura of authority. I also appreciated the changes seen in his character through his acting. Wilkerson began as a very severe man, delivering his lines almost curtly and with the confidence of one used to being obeyed. But as the captain spent more time with Maria, Wilkerson gentled his tone and relaxed his posture to be more respectful and reserved instead of harsh and abrasive. His interactions with the other characters onstage were realistic and clear, showing a clear development of his relationship with Maria and also with his children.
Elsa Schrader, a suitor to Captain Von Trapp, and Max Detweiler, the easy going, comic and irresponsible friend of the von Trapps were portrayed by Margaret Shafer and Bill Sizemore. Shafer had a strong presence, showing a responsible, set-in-her-ways kind of woman that always goes after what she wants. I enjoyed how Shafer made her character’s thoughts so visible through her expressions. When Schrader is worried that her rich suitor won’t commit to a relationship you can see her face calculating her options and how to best catch her man. Sizemore was very enjoyable to see, especially in his relations with the children and how he interacts with all of the other characters onstage. This was especially visible when he interacted with his old friend Captain Von Trapp and the very carefree nature of his character. The songs where Shafer and Sizemore shone most were “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It”, each of them demonstrating strong voices and appealing performances.
Pat Moore was dynamic in her role of the Mother Abbess. Her voice lent itself well to this role, with a strong emotional performance during “Climb Every Mountain” and her care and understanding during “My Favorite Things”. Moore was able to take this character and make it her own, showing a caring, kind, understanding woman making hers a believable, heartfelt performance that helped to draw me deep into the action taking place.
The three supporting nuns at the abbey are Sister Margaretta, played by Rachel Massey; Sister Berthe, played by Susan Reeves; and Sister Sophia played by Amy Cave. Each of these women was extremely unique in her own way, showing radically different opinions about Maria and her behavior at the abbey. Together their actions, both stern and humorous, helped the audience better understand the real Maria. Together, they were exceptional during the song “Maria” as their voices combined in beautiful harmony.
Sarah Wagoner was phenomenal in her portrayal of Liesl with her genuine interactions between each of the other characters, especially the Von Trapp children. She portrayed Liesl as a caring older sister closely bonded to her siblings but with growing affection for another. Wagoner showed the love and responsibility of an older sister who would hold and comfort her youngest sister during a thunder storm and sing will all her siblings. Yet whenever Rolf is onstage or even just mentioned, Wagoner made Liesl’s growing affection visible. I was especially impressed by her acting when Liesl realizes that Rolf’s presence could endanger her family. She called out to Rolf and in that moment her tone and expression clearly showed her conflicted feelings. Wagoner demonstrated amazing vocal skill as well, especially during her duet with Rolf in “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. Their dance number together was enjoyable, especially with the different dynamics each created.
Shafer Wilkerson played the part of Rolf, the young man that demonstrates a strong interest in Liesl. While on stage Wilkerson showed the passion of youth as he courted the eldest Von Trapp daughter and sympathized more and more with Germany. While singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” he showed not only his youthful ardor but also his sense of responsibility. During this scene Wilkerson exerted his presence more, strengthening his posture and making his voice more assertive during his lines. He clearly showed the responsibility Rolf felt towards protecting Liesl. At other times on stage Wilkerson showed Rolf’s developing loyalty towards Germany. Whenever Wilkerson spoke about Germany, there was eagerness and enthusiasm in his voice. As he adopted German mannerisms you saw hesitation in him. When he began to use the Nazi salute you would see Wilkerson’s shoulders slump in doubt and nervousness and then square as he pushed through, showing clear conflict between his Austrian heritage and the German occupation.
Brigitta, the intelligent, young girl that always has her nose in a book yet still notices everything going on, was played by Ingrid Fease. Fease showed a very young character that has a very good understanding of the world around her. I especially appreciated how Fease showed Brigitta’s maturity when she was conversing with Maria about Captain von Trapp’s feelings. Yet she had a youthful and sassy side that emerged when she called out someone’s errors. She was able to keep me engaged because of her keen sense of observation in her interactions with the other characters. Fease carried herself with confidence which went well with her nice voice. She was a joy to watch onstage.
The Von Trapp boys, Frederich and Kurt, were played by Collin Tooley and Gabriel Magana, respectively. These two were fun to watch onstage, especially in their interactions with their sisters and also Maria. Tooley would puff out his chest to make himself look older and Magana would shadow Tooley to distance himself from the girls. I also enjoyed them during “The Lonely Goatherd” as they were interactive and acted out the song for Maria. They were definitely having a lot of fun onstage which helped me to enjoy the song as their siblings did. Both their voices were strong and clear.
Louisa was played by Danielle Downs, Paige Radle played the part of Marta, and the adorable Gretl was very successfully played by Reagan Pfaffenberger. All of these amazing young actresses were a delight to watch onstage. Downs has an exceptional voice that was put to very good use throughout the musical. Radle, though her part was small, fit in perfectly with her character choices, acting as the petulant young girl Marta is. Pfaffenberger was adorable each time she came onstage and projected very well, both speaking and singing, considering her age.
Franz, the butler, and Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper, were played by Ron Reeves and Louise Childs. Though their parts were small, each had well-defined characterizations and showed definite irritation with the Captain when it was appropriate. They also helped to illuminate the changing mood of Austrians towards Germany. Reeves conveyed the strict German demeanor in the way that he carried himself and interacted with the German soldiers whenever he was onstage while Childs showed a strong sense of her character’s Austrian heritage by showing irritation with the Germans and the effect they were having on her beloved Austria. .
The Sisters of the Nonnberg Abbey were phenomenal in all of their numbers, with clear, strong vocals that flowed smoothly together, creating a harmonious, pleasant sound. The “Preludium” was absolutely beautiful and perfectly set the stage for the overall feel of the musical. Their other numbers were all extraordinary, especially “Gaudeamus Dominum”, making me want to hear more. They were able to convey a real sense of an abbey through the way that they carried themselves.
I highly recommend this production as an absolutely wonderful opportunity to see this classic musical performed as it should. The beautiful singing combined with strong acting, and the sense of love and family this musical conveys, makes it an excellent choice, especially as we start the holiday season.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
1115 Fourth Avenue, Carrollton, TX 75006
Performances run through December 1st
Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday - Sunday at 2:00 pm. Additional performances
on Thursday Nov. 21st and Friday Nov. 22nd at 7:30 pm.
Ticket prices are $18.00, $16.00 for seniors and $14.00 for children. Purchases
online incur a service fee. You may also purchase tickets at the box office one
hour before the curtain.
For info & tix: http://www.thefirehousetheatre.com or call box office at 972-620-3747