Summer 2001
Cain Park Summer Theatre

















Tom Fulton, Scott Plate, Tracee Patterson








Jennifer Goodson as Maria

The Sound of Music
Directed by Fred Sternfeld

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 Sternfeld takes 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 Good".

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 eye-opener.

Originally published in the Plain Dealer, June, 2001