Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Chanhassen stages a winsome
Postulant nun Maria realizes that she's missed evening prayers, and she dashes down the mountain, arms and legs flying, a gawky girl. A thunderstorm rages in the Austrian Alps on her first night as the governess to Captain von Trapp's seven children and, frightened by the vigor of the storm, they heap into bed with her. In no time, Maria has them singing "The Lonely Goatherd" to drown out the thunder, and she's as youthful, spontaneous and joyous as her charges.
Lissome Nora Long as Maria has a knack for youth, and she infuses Chanhassen Dinner Theaters' pleasing production of The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein with her vitality. But the choice for her to wear a spiky-looking wig is unfortunate, considering her wonderful head of hair. A fine soprano, Long is as much actor as singer, and she absolutely captures Maria's tumble of emotions and her transition to womanhood as the von Trapp family story unfolds.
The much loved true story of the The Sound of Music opens in 1938 Austria as Hitler's Germany spreads its dark tentacles across Europe. Young Maria Rainer is a free-spirited postulant at Nonnberg Abbey, who sings in the hills more readily than she prays in chapel. The Mother Abbess sends Maria out into the world for a period to be the governess of widower Navy Captain Georg von Trapp's seven children. In his grief, the Captain runs his household with naval discipline and treats his unhappy children like uniformed sailors. Enter spunky Maria. Like sunshine escaping a bank of cloud, Maria's arrival brings song and happiness to the von Trapp home, and she finds unexpected love.
To people who know the story from the popular 1965 film, Chanhassen's The Sound of Music will feel familiar, but director Michael Brindisi has nipped and tucked his production to give it pace and a vivacity that is particular to the stage.
Long leads a strong cast. Outstanding among them are mezzo-soprano Kathleen Humphrey as the kindly Mother Abbess; Michelle Barber, who plays the Captain's love interest, sophisticated Elsa Schraeder, with wonderfully shaded irony; and Jay Albright as Max Detweiler, the Captain's witty friend - Albright romps into his role with campy charm.
David Anthony Brinkley's singing lacks strength and, curiously, this works to his advantage, since his voice conveys an appealing vulnerability in the Captain. Brinkley plays the role with dignity, and he finesses the fact that he is the last one to understand that he is in love with his governess in this November/May attraction.
The children act and sing with panache but, although Andreea Lyn Parson's sings well as Liesl, she feels too womanly to be 16. Her friend, Rolf, the ardent young postman, also suffers from too many years in the person of Steven B. Young.
Nayna Ramey's set uses a flight of marble steps that dwindle into a rising mountain path as a center piece, and she creates effective scene changes with panels of arched stained glass windows, or pillars that slide into place. Costumes by Sandra Nei Schulte define the period.
Brindisi finds a balance between The Sound of Music's sweetness as a love story and its dark political background to make this production attractive summer fare.
The Sound of Music at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, 501, West 78th Street, Chanhassen. May 30 - October 25: Tuesdays through Saturdays, 6:00 p.m. Sunday matinees 4:30 p.m.. Wednesdays & Saturdays 11:00 a.m. Dinner and show $41 - $52. Show only $29 - $40. Call 952-934-1525.Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Twin Cities area