SUNDANCE — Someone once asked one of us to choose only one musical to represent musical theatre and mankind, and I chose The Sound of Music. Such an iconic show needs little introduction here, and it is our personal opinion that its special mixture of history, compelling narrative, and inspiring messages has led it to stand the test of time and become one of the most beloved musicals of all time. We agreed as we sat down for the show, “It’s hard not to like The Sound of Music.” Sundance Resort’s summer theatre has succeeded in offering a wonderful production of this beloved musical, while also providing a unique family experience in the Wasatch Mountains. So, let’s start at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start.
Be sure to arrive early for this show, as the parking lot is far away from the actual amphitheater. You will board a tram that will take you to the resort, and then a tractor that will take you to the theater. This extensive trip to the theatre allows you to begin taking in the natural beauty of this venue. But you’ll definitely want to bring blankets and bug spray.
The setting is perfect as Maria, played by BreAnne Okoren, begins the show winding through the hills, making her way to the stage. Okoren is strong and enchanting throughout, as she portrays Maria’s journey from a flibberty-jibbet nun-in-training to a determined mother of seven. The transformation of Captain von Trapp’s character, played by Matt Dobson, is also effective and believable. As the hardened man heard his children sing for the first time in years, his subtle and tender emotions truly moved the audience. The strength of the entire cast made this a solid production, but there were also a few standouts that elevated the show with their performances.
The children were truly wonderful; we loved that the younger children were really played by young children. The Von Trapps came across as a real family. Little 5-year-old Gretl, played by Lyza Lynne Bull, was so adorable that I, too, wanted to put her on my back and scale the Alps. She is impressive, making her musical theatre debut without a hint of nervousness, repeating her lines precisely on cue. The Baroness von Schraeder (Christy Allen) and Max Detweiler (Andrew Hansen) brought the show to a higher level with their performances, adding great conflict and energy to the production whenever they were on stage. Though sometimes simply portrayed as a villain, Allen brought depth to the conflicted role of the Baroness that is not always seen in stage productions of the show. On the whole, the entire ensemble did very well, although some of the more dramatic moments felt rushed. This could have been because it was their first night with an audience.
As with any outdoor production, the design elements of the show did seem to take shape once the sun went down. This is obviously most notable with the lighting design (by Joseph Fox), but the look of the set (designed by Stephen Purdy) also improved once backstage was hidden in darkness, and through the deconstructed set you could see purple hues painting the branches and the majestic silhouettes of pine trees. Though the real scenery was integrated when it could be, we did wish that there didn’t have to be any fabricated nature on the set. A small, painted hill and rod iron mountains pale in comparison when surrounded by the real thing. The costume design (by Lara Beene) was familiar and executed very well.
The biggest bonus of seeing The Sound of Music at Sundance (which we did not know until we sat down) is that it is a sing along version! The programs have the lyrics printed in them, and though you do not sing along with every song (at least, not out loud), the audience is given an opportunity throughout the show to participate, and experience the magic that music can create.
Seeing this show in this unique venue is sure to be a delightful night for you and your family. Director Isaac Walters unites the audience and performers as a community, which reminded us how inspirational this story truly is. In a time where conflict and adversity seem to be increasing, we are shown what matters most. Through the unity of family, we are able to Climb Every Mountain and Ford Every Stream.