PLAIN DEALER REVIEW
By Linda Eisenstein
From the moment the open harmonies of the nun's
chorus float over the outdoor amphitheater, blending with the sounds
of evening birds, you might suspect that Cain Park might be the
ideal place to experience Rodgers and Hammerstein's amiable evergreen,
"The Sound of Music".
Then director Fred
you to the place where your heart unlocks, then melts: when Scott
Plate as the previously locked-down Captain von Trapp first
hears the clear tones of his offstage children singing the title
song. You watch the play of emotions on his face -- surprise, wonder,
a grief for what has been lost -- and then the transforming moment
where, in a rush of awakened feeling, he adds his gloriously resonant
baritone to the mix. It's pure, transcendent musical theater.
Crafting those revelatory moments -- where a song
becomes not just a song, but a character's motivating force, a decision,
even a spiritual state -- is where Sternfeld and music director
Larry Hartzell combine forces with a fine group of local
actor-singers to make this admirable production shine. The orchestra
sounds terrific, and the piece is impeccably cast with both Equity
and non-Equity talent, down to the smallest roles.
Opposite Plate's deftly underplayed Captain, Jennifer
Goodson plays awkward postulant-turned-governess Maria with
the zeal of a kid-friendly camp counselor. Her sunny, hockey-player
heartiness is in perfect contrast to the elegant, subtle Baroness
Elsa (a splendid Tracee Patterson). Tom Fulton is superb
as the shrewdly opportunistic Max, who engineers the von Trapp's
Festival appearance. The Max & Elsa songs, absent in the movie
version, add tartness and depth to the political dimensions of the
show, especially the canny "No Way to Stop It".
Jennifer Cochran's generous Mother Abbess
has a powerhouse soprano that nails "Climb Every Mountain",
and Jeanne Task is a delightfully disapproving Sister Berthe. Elise
de Roulet's Liesl & Dominic Roberts as her boyfriend Rolf do
a funny "Sixteen, Growing on Seventeen". And the kids
playing the other von Trapp children are cute and disarming, especially
Betsy Hogg's candid Brigitta.
The one production misstep is the addition of two
songs written for the film: the unnecessary, brassy "I Have
Confidence", which sounds like it wandered in from a generic
Streisand vehicle, and the undistinguished love duet "Something
But mainly the show sparkles with a series of beautifully
crafted moments, from a boisterously playful "Lonely Goatherd"
to Plate's exquisitely rendered "Edelweiss". If you've
only experienced "The Sound of Music" through the Julie
Andrews film or tacky tours, this production will be an welcome
Originally published in the Plain Dealer, June,