Arts Club's The Sound of Music offers more to revel in than just the famous songs

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      Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, November 13. Continues until January 5

      The Arts Club Theatre Company has unveiled an inspirational retelling of the classic musical The Sound of Music. This production certainly does what audiences will expect—serve justice to the famous score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. But above and beyond that, director Ashlie Corcoran has brought to life a stunning reworking of the show whose messages will resonate with contemporary audiences, and sparkles with exciting performances and production values.

      Most audiences will already be familiar with the tale of young postulant Maria Rainer, assigned to govern the seven children of widower Capt. Georg von Trapp. As Maria warms up to the children, she also softens what initially appears to be the stone heart of the captain. With the action set against the backdrop of pre–Second World War Austria, the impending invasion of the Nazi forces adds heightened drama.

      With such Broadway standards as “Climb Ev'ry Mountain”, “My Favorite Things”, and the title song, one would expect the singing in this show to be stellar—and it is. Under the musical direction of Ken Cormier, the vocals in this production soar, led by Synthia Yusuf as Maria, Jonathan Winsby as Capt. von Trapp, Meghan Gardiner as Elsa Schraeder, and Annie Ramos as the Mother Abbess. But there’s much more to enjoy beyond the music.

      Yusuf is wonderfully relatable as Maria. With her playful personality and free spirit, she’s a character to root for, and she also paints her character arc with great skill. First rolling through the hills with childlike joy, she later carries herself with graceful maturity after finding love and newfound responsibility.

      And unlike in the film, where Julie Andrews’s Maria falls for a much older Capt. von Trapp played by Christopher Plummer, we have a dramatically smaller age difference here. Winsby’s von Trapp is young, and also poised and refined. The way he orders his children and servants around at the start doesn’t stem from cruelness, but from heartbreak over his deceased wife, revealing his character’s sensitivity. The emotional connection between Yusuf and Winsby is believable, especially after “Something Good”, when the two characters confess their true feelings for each other.

      Emily Cooper

      Lighting up the stage as the von Trapp children is a group of impressively talented triple-threat performers. These kids bring likable energy, personality, and musical talent to their roles, as well as great versatility. They perform Shelley Stewart Hunt’s high-energy pieces of choreography, like “Do-Re-Mi”, with zest and polish, but also show affection when they help their father through “Edelweiss”.

      As Louisa von Trapp, Jaime MacLean is a standout dancer, bringing “The Lonely Goatherd” to a rousing climax with her cartwheels, as well as showing off lovely ballet lines and technique in the party scene.

      The eldest von Trapp child, Liesl (Jolene Bernardino), and her love interest, Rolf (Jason Sakaki), playfully perform “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, in which Hunt gives us nothing short of Broadway-magic choreography. Taking us back to the golden era of musicals, this flirtatious song-and-dance begins as a classic soft-shoe and eventually builds to an exciting Ginger-Rogers-and-Fred-Astaire–inspired sequence.

      All this action is performed amid Drew Facey’s handsome set design. Tall pillars line the stage, serving as the base for various set pieces that fly in and out, transporting us from the tranquil abbey to the sophisticated von Trapp living room, complete with plush ottomans and elegant staircases. Interestingly, giant trees encompass the stage for much of the show, reminding us of the story’s connection to the wilderness.

      The open layout of Facey’s set makes the Stanley Industrial Alliance’s stage look huge, and Itai Erdal’s lighting nicely shows the passing of time in many scenes, using gorgeous shades of blue and red to paint exquisite sunsets.

      What’s most compelling about this show is the story’s parallels to current times, where people worldwide continue to flee their circumstances to escape war and injustice. While this production of The Sound of Music is a pleasing display of classic musical theatre, it’s also a poignant reminder of humanity’s fight for freedom and integrity.

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