at Gateway Playhouse
The hills are alive in Bellport as the Gateway continues its 70th Season with the stunning classic The Sound Of Music! This Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece has a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp. The Gateway’s production is directed and choreographed by Mitzi Hamilton, and this wonderful show is a testament to her vision and the talent of the entire cast and crew.
From the fabulous opening number to the emotional end, this production is everything you’re hoping it will be with only a few minor tweaks. For anyone who, like me, is a huge fan of the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews, you’ll notice that a few of the songs have been moved around and are sung at different points in the show. While this did make the loyal fan in me frown slightly, my theatre lover side can appreciate that it was most likely done for ease of flow in a stage production; and it didn’t harm the plot or enjoyment. Sadly there is no giant marionette sequence, but again, film to stage transfer must be taken into account and don’t worry “The Lonely Goatherd” song is still present and sounds incredible! We also gain two songs that are not in the film, “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way To Stop It” both of which are sung predominantly by Elsa and Max and add a bit more to their characters.
The wonderful set design varies from attractively painted back drops to large and intricate full stage pieces; scenic coordination and additional designs by Brittany Loesch. Gorgeous lighting design by Marcia Madeira is brilliantly effective throughout, starting from the fantastic opening sequence in the shadowed Nonnberg Abbey. Perfectly movie reminiscent costume design by Joe Greene is lovely and historically accurate.
Of course what really brings any performance to life is the cast, and this one does beautiful justice to the roles we know and love. Brandi Burkhardt is an excellent Maria, her gorgeous vocals effortlessly performing the beloved songs. She perfectly captures that beguiling mix of strength and nerves, wisdom and innocence, that is the essence of Maria. Ryan K. Bailer’s strong and smooth voice is a pure pleasure to listen to, especially on “Edelweiss” which he portrays with raw emotion; this combined with a slight hint of an accent adds a nice dynamic to his character.
The Nuns wonderful harmonizing vocals impress on more than one occasion, and the subtle interactions between Sister Margaretta and Sister Berthe, played by Amanda Joy Loth and Ariana Valdes respectively, are very funny. Tracy Bidleman is wonderful as The Mother Abbess and gives a fantastic performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”. Tom Souhrada is as charming and amusing as Max Detweiler should be, Jenny Hill is great as Elsa Schraeder, and Nick Ziobro as Rolf displays excellent vocals during “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”.
It is difficult to accurately describe how impressed I am by the incredible cast of kids playing the Von Trapp Children. For a group of seven young people of varying ages and experience to act and sing so stunningly well together, and singularly, is an amazing and completely wonderful sight to see. Their every scene was enchanting, and their harmonies are enough to give you goosebumps. Excepting Liesl, who is always played by the lovely, charming and talented Erin Grace Kelly, The Von Trapp Children are portrayed at differing performances by two groups of kids: The Blue Company and The Yellow Company. I had the pleasure of witnessing the Yellow Company which is comprised of: Justino Tesoro (Friedrich), Olivia McBride (Louisa), Daniel Donahue (Kurt), Sage Cotter (Brigitta), Addison Wasylyshyn (Marta), & Sonnie Betts (as Gretl, whose completely adorable performance nearly stole the show). The Blue Company consists of: Albert Jack Peterson (Friedrich), Keira Ballan (Louisa), Brendyn J. Molnar (Kurt), Allie DeMatteo (Brigitta), Brynne Ballan (Marta), & Clara Swinkin (Gretl). While I haven’t had the undoubtedly great pleasure of seeing The Blue Company in person I can only imagine how wonderful they must be as well! No matter which company you are lucky enough to get to see I can guarantee they will be amazing!
The Sound of Music is a beloved story for people of all ages. A tale of courage, true love, and family, that has and will continue to span generations. So Do-Re-Mi yourself over to the Gateway and make sure you don’t miss this fabulous show!
The timeless musical sings.
The hills of Bellport are alive with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music and you can’t help but be charmed by this production. From the characters to the music, The Gateway has brought The Sound of Music to life, capturing the spirit of this beloved tale.
Our heroine, Maria Rainer, is a nun-in-training at the Nonnberg Abbey in Austria. She is sent to the home of Captain Georg von Trapp to be a governess to his seven children, as the nuns of the Abbey are not convinced Maria would make a very good nun. Played by Brandi Burkhardt, Maria is full of dreams and songs, and believes it’s her duty to serve God as a nun. As she sings the title song “The Sound of Music,” Burkhardt’s clear, strong, melodious voice transports you to those rolling hills in the countryside, where she feels happy and free. Singing “My Favorite Things” with the Mother Abbess is a delight, and it’s hard not to sing along with them.
Together, Captain von Trapp’s seven children have scared off every governess their militant father has found. Their mischievous ways are cries for attention from their often-absent father, and when Maria is introduced to this overly structured household she is determined to bring gaiety back into the children’s lives. She shuns the whistle Captain von Trapp offers her (to call the children, of course—and each has their own code) and instead begins to teach them music. The delightful number “Do-Re-Mi” is a favorite and it’s easy to get swept away with Maria and the children during this catchy scene.
The oldest of Captain von Trapp’s children is Liesl, played by Erin Grace Kelly, who at 16 finds herself confused about her feelings for a messenger boy named Rolf. Their duet “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is sweet, innocent and fun, but ultimately foreshadows trouble down the road for the von Trapps.
Captain von Trapp is played by Ryan K. Bailer, who at first is stoic and seemingly without feeling. We of course learn that he has lost his wife, and since her death his world has been devoid of laughter and music. With Maria as governess, his children are singing again and after a few weeks, his icy exterior seems to melt. Now he thoroughly enjoys having music back in his life—thanks to Maria, who he is beginning to fall in love with. The change Maria brings about in the Captain is spectacular, sweet and just what his children needed.
Amidst all of this, the world is on the brink of World War II, and German influence has begun to infiltrate Austria and its people. Captain von Trapp is a staunch anti-fascist and refuses to bow to the Nazi influence, despite warnings from his friend Max Detweiler (Tom Souhrada) and fiancé Elsa Schraeder (Jenny Hill) that if he doesn’t conform, he and his family could be in danger.
Let’s talk about Captain von Trapp’s children, who were the little stars of the show. From the oldest, Liesel, to the youngest, little Gretl (Sonny Betts), they’re all spectacularly fun to watch. Their rendition of “So Long, Farewell” was sweet and fun, and they executed it perfectly. Observant Brigitta (Allie DeMatteo) doesn’t miss a thing and informs Maria that her father is in love with her, which changes the course of Maria’s life. Scared witless and feeling out of her league, Maria leaves the von Trapps without so much as a goodbye. Back at the Abbey, she confesses to the Mother Abbess what she thinks is her great sin—loving Captain von Trapp. The wise old nun advises Maria to not be afraid of this love, this gift from God, and to embrace it instead.
The love story between the Captain and Maria is the stuff of dreams. The only thing that could stand in their way—the Nazi invasion—is a very real threat that reaches our von Trapp family forcing them to plan an escape. The last few scenes are tense, culminating in the first and last performance of the assembled von Trapp family in Austria.