PERRY — We all grew up with Julie Andrew’s iconic performance in the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music. This classic play is filled with timeless songs we know and love such as, “Do-Re-Mi,” “So Long, Farewell,” and, “My Favorite Things,” and was the last musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The play is a standard in musical theatre, and it holds up to the test of time by still feeling relevant and poignant today. Heritage Theatre‘s version delivers a comforting and heartfelt performance bursting with warmth and charm.
Leah Kennedy steps into the role of Maria Rainer, a struggling postulant nun who takes on the job of being governess to the seven von Trapp children. Kennedy delivers a solid performance of all the songs we know and love with a voice that is angelic. Kennedy makes Maria her own and steps out of Julie Andrews’s considerable shadow to put her own touch to the part. Opposite Kennedy was Garrett Ashby as Captain von Trapp, the Austrian Naval Captain who runs his massive castle with military precision and is rearing his children like a team of sheepdogs responding to his strident whistle. Ashby’s performance was mixed for me, as he never seemed as stern and cold in the beginning, which robbed his character of the chance to thaw and change as drastically. Ashby did deliver a very nice rendition of, “Edelweiss,” with his guitar and had a good warm chemistry as Captain von Trapp with Kennedy as Maria as they sang, “Something Good,” together.
The children of the von Trapp family all gave a wonderful performance on their numbers together. Each child had a lot of fun personality and spunk to their characters and was impressive. Of particular note was the eldest von Trapp child, Liesel, played by Abby Findlay. Her voice was beautiful and, as her character, had nice chemistry with Rolf Grube (Jackson Nelsen) during their duet, “Sixteen going on Seventeen.” I enjoyed the choreography of Molly Buck and Olivia Buck during that number in particular as well as during a sweet dancing moment where I could see the Captain and Maria falling in love.
The technical elements of the play were done well in this production and are a great example of beautifully executed community theatre. The set lead, Jill Kirkham, dressed the stage with a beautiful backdrop of the Swiss Alps that sets the scene of the hills sung about. Costumer Rachel Hunt and Jocelyn Michael dress everyone well for the late 1930s period in a way that isn’t distracting for the timeless nature of the story.
Music director Courtney Fairbourn did an excellent job with the music. I always feel the Heritage Theatre does a wonderful job producing quality community theatre, and this play is no exception. The nuns in particular have intricate harmonies during their numbers that are impressive and beautiful. Michael as Mother Abbess does a markedly beautiful rendition of, “Climb Every Mountain,” with a strong opera soprano.
Director Mina Jasaraj sets out to deliver a classic interpretation of this musical and is successful. I enjoy that Jasaraj uses the space at the Heritage well and gives a cohesive vision. The show has a good balance between the serious and the comedic. Jasaraj even has the nun chorus sing with their backs to the audience as an interesting beginning to the show that I found effective. My only complaint is that Maria’s entrance was a little lackluster, as she spent a little too long singing at the back of the theatre in the dark before making her way up to the stage.
As someone who grew up loving, “The Sound of Music,” I think everyone should have the chance to experience it and see why it is still a relevant classic. I was able to take my daughter with me, and she was enthralled with this performance, because it was her first time seeing the story. We were able to have a long discussion afterwards about the lessons it teaches about what must learned from history. It shows the importance of standing up for what we believe is right, even if it is unpopular. And most importantly, it shows that even in the darkest of times, there is still hope available and worth chasing, “till you find your dream.”