The Center for Performing Arts was alive with The Sound of Music for the opening night or Rogers and Hammerstein’s beloved classic musical. The Sound of Music is an uplifting musical telling of the real life story of Maria and the Von Trapp Family Singers, a famous pre-WWII era performance group.
The show opens in Nonnberg Abbey in Austria at the beginning of WWII. Young Maria, (Kerstin Anderson) is on a nearby mountainside longing to return to her home where the hills are alive with The Sound of Music. When she arrives late for psalms, the nuns are left to decide what should become of this girl who is so carefree and full of song. How do you solve a problem like Maria? Her spunk and spirit do not align with the modesty and seriousness of nunnery life.
Maria begs The Mother Abbess (Melody Betts) to allow her to stay at the Abbey and vows to lead a more devoted life. But after a beautiful rendition My Favorite Things, the Mother Abbess advises Maria that she should spend some time away from the Abbey to serve as the governess for the Von Trapp Family. During her time away, she should evaluate whether or not her heart is committed to serving God. Melody Betts is fantastic as the Mother Abbess. Her operatic vocals command attention and set the bar high for the rest of the cast.
Maria arrives at the Von Trapp home to meet Captain Von Trapp, a widowed Naval Captain and father to 7 rebellious children who have chased away every governess assigned to their home. Maria is excited at the prospect of winning over the Von Trapp children and helping them steal the heart of the soon to be new step mother all while bringing joy and music back into the home.
The Von Trapp children, acclimated to a life of military discipline, quickly fall in love with Maria and her music. The talented cast of children had the audience smiling from ear to ear from their very first performance of Do-Re-Mi all the way through the final performance of the show. They were absolutely perfect each as individuals as well as a harmonized group. The even had the chemistry of a real family.
Against a tense backdrop of a pending Nazi occupation, the Von Trapp household is happily humming along and filled with delightful music. The Captain soon realizes that he is in love with Maria. Conflicted by her own feelings of affection towards the Captain, Maria flees and returns to the Abbey only to realize that the Von Trapp home is where she belongs. Upon returning to the Villa, the Captain and Maria decide to follow their hearts and soon the two are married. After returning from their honeymoon, Maria and the Captain are faced with the harsh reality of the Nazi occupation. The Captain is ordered to fight for the Germans or face repercussions. The family then must find a way to escape.
Playing the role of Maria, made most famous by Julie Andrews, is no small feat for any performer. Kerstin Anderson was very well cast and vocally did great justice to the shows iconic musical score. While her portrayal of Maria was at times juvenile and a little too comical and quirky, she was able to carry the role as governess, friend, and eventual bride to the Captain, who was the perfect blend of military strictness and truly loving family man.
Even with a cast of strong performances, the real star of the show is the music. Scanning the audience during the musical performances I observed a sea of heads bobbing along and an occasional sing-along escaping the lips of someone who just could not help but join in the familiar tunes. This feel good story is sure to make you laugh, entertain you throughout, and leave you singing for days (or perhaps have you singing during the show).
The San Jose engagement of The Sound of Music is presented by Broadway San Jose and is playing now through November 13th. Tickets are available at www.broadwaysanjose.com or at the box office located at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.) or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).