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Soaring Voices, Familiar Tunes and Happy Kids Make Sound of Music a Winner

The play is at Saline High School at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

If you left the Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center Friday night and didn’t feel as if your heart had been blessed with the sound of music, consult a cardiologist or audiologist.

The Saline Area Players' presentation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music was a smashing success. 

I’m no theater critic. In fact, I failed the entrance exam when trying out for the Future Dilettantes of America club. But I can tell you this: Over the years, I’ve taken pictures of The Sound of Music three times. Each time, I snuck out at the intermission. Until Friday.

In The Sound of Music, a young woman named Maria, played by Jane Arvidson Panikkar, leaves the Abbey to become governess for Austrian war hero and widower, Captain von Trapp, who is rigidly raising his seven children. Maria brings music back the von Trapp home and happiness to their hearts. Eventually, she and Captain von Trapp fall in love and marry. But the honeymoon is spoiled when the newlyweds return home to discover that the Nazis are trying to strongarm Captain von Trapp to join their forces.

Jane Arvidson Panikkar is positively effervescent as Maria, the naïf who leaves the convent to watch over Captain Von Trapp’s children. She is blessed with an incredible voice that she is able to use in many styles. Her on-stage rapport with the von Trapp children is one of the most crucial strengths of this performance. One senses that she and the young actors are having as much fun on stage as Maria and the von Trapp children are supposed to be having as their relationship develops, and that goes along way to drawing the audience into the play.

Captain von Trapp is played by Richard Knapp. Knapp’s von Trapp is much more likeable than some I’ve seen in the past. It seems that Knapp’s von Trapp doesn’t have as far to move in his transformation from cold and rigid to warm and loving. Maybe that’s why I found his transition more believable and genuine than I’ve seen from other portrayals. With many Rodgers and Hammerstein plays, the plot doesn’t give much room for character development. And The Sound of Music is no different. One knows that Maria and Captain von Trapp will fall in love. But the interaction between the two on the way to that point is scarce. Still, Panikkar and Knapp quickly make you forget andy of the story's shortcomings when they’re belting out the songs, and they remind you that The Sound of Music is, after all, about the music.

Leo Babcock’s portrayal of Max Detweiler, the conniving promoter, was nearly as sly as his character, because Babcock often stole the scene when on stage. Babcock won plenty of laughs from the crowd and brought lots of energy to  the stage. Linda McCallister was also impressive as Elsa Schraeder, the cunning baroness who was courting Captain von Trapp. McCallister brought a wry sense of humor to the role and the scenes between she and Babcock were among the most entertaining.

One cannot comment on this performance without noting the voice of Mary Rumman, who played Mother Abbess. Rumman’s operatic singing of Climb Ev’ry Mountain was a showstopper, providing a powerful conclusion to the first act.

In nearly every performance of The Sound of Music that I’ve seen, the kids make or break the show. After all, Captain von Trapp falls for Maria, presumably, after watching her act with the children. And Maria doesn’t fully realize she’s in love with Captain von Trapp until it’s pointed out by one of the children. The first domino in this plot falls when Maria introduces music to these kids and transforms them from a small militia into happy kids. The von Trapp children in the cast are Maya Rich (Liesl), Alexander Jasman (Friedrich), Jordan Bauman (Louisa), Linus Babcock (Kurt), Olivianna Calmes (Brigitta), Adelaide Gregor (Marta), and Marlee Boulia (Gretel). Sometimes, you can get away with just having cute kids on stage, and these kids can’t be beat in that department. But these youngsters showed considerable talent as singers and actors. As pointed out earlier, their interaction with Panikkar, Knapp and Babcock was natural, believable and adorable. Watching these kids makes you feel a little younger at heart.

For an opening night, the tempo was quick and there weren’t any glaring mistakes or technical glitches. The work by the orchestra in the pit was flawless.

The show’s artistic director was Carrie Jean Sayer. Robert Cindric was musical director.

The Sound of Music continues with performances at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center at Saline High School.

General admission seating is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors (65 and older) and students (through high school).

 

(Saline-Milan.Patch.com is seeking a freelance writer to write art and theater previews and reviews. If you're interested, e-mail editor Tran Longmoore at tran.longmoore@patch.com)

Melanie Irving March 27, 2011 at 09:44 PM
My niece was Jordan and my sister was 1st chair Orchestra in the pit; and I went Friday night and they did a beautiful job. I truly enjoyed myself and so proud of them both.

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