Is it any wonder that “The Sound of Music” is occasionally served up as a theatrical sing-along? It’s an iconic entertainment, one whose songs and dialogue are so well known that audiences can’t wait to get into their seats, in costume, to sing with, and irreverently talk back to, the 1965 Julie Andrews movie. Even SLOC’s satisfying mounting of this 1959 Tony winner briefly tweaks itself with the appearance of assistant director Jeffrey P. Hocking in drag (twice); in fact, his second appearance draws the night’s biggest laugh.
The musical material is, of course, so indestructible that you won’t be distracted by Hocking because, by that time, you’ll have enjoyed all of the songs many of us of a certain age learned from the original cast recording. No one at Saturday’s packed house sang, and they didn’t need to: the cast is up to performing all by themselves, thanks to Rebecca Straight’s confident direction of this huge show.
Since the play starts with the nuns, let’s mention these actresses first: They are spot-on throughout. Appropriately, their a cappella singing (in this converted church) rings true. Pitch and blend are secure. Especially effective is their moment in the balcony at the wedding of Maria (Erin Waterhouse) and Captain von Trapp (John Sutliff).
’The Sound of Music’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $28, $22
MORE INFO: 877-350-7378 or www.sloctheater.org
As the Mother Abbess, Janice Walz is rock-solid. She and Waterhouse convey a mother-daughter intimacy in “My Favorite Things,” and she fearlessly delivers the vocal and dramatic goods in “Climb Every Mountain.”
Until things turn Nazi-ugly in Act 2, comic relief is provided by Elsa Schrader (Laura Tortorici) and Max Detweiler (Joe Phillips) as, respectively, von Trapp’s fiancée and friend. “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It” are ironic complements to the show’s general sweetness, and Tortorici’s drop-dead timing prompts numerous chuckles.
As the seven von Trapp children, Lydia Walrath, Connor Olney, Gabrielle D. Straight, Henry Sinnott, Heather Grace Pangburn, Gabriella Pizzolo and Sofia Rose Trimarchi are a talented and affecting bunch, who come across as distinct personalities.
They do justice to Abby Todd’s choreography and nail the bounce of “The Lonely Goatherd” and “So Long, Farewell,” thanks to the training of music director Brad Gregg. Watch their suspicious looks when Maria first gets them to sing “Do-Re-Mi”: It’s priceless. Kudos particularly to Walrath, whose glorious voice pegs her as a singer with a future.
If Waterhouse’s opening number is a bit deliberate, that moment is anomalous. For the rest of the show, she is a vibrant young woman struggling to come to terms with her destiny, an orphan in search of a family, but unsure of whether it’s in the sacred or secular world. Waterhouse romps with the children, projects Maria’s burgeoning love for the captain and credibly becomes the mother in the play’s darker moments. It is a spectacular performance.
A nod, finally, to costumer Sherry Recinella, who has outfitted the enormous cast handsomely.
The evening is a long one. Until SLOC finishes its stage and reception area, we are in for lengthy scene changes (20 scenes in this show) and wearying intermissions.
Here, the powers that be might have made different set choices, trimmed the two curtain speeches, cut the entr’acte, and scrapped “I Have Confidence,” which was not in the original.