The Valdosta Daily Times
If you aren’t already charmed by the talents of the local children, the splendid voices of Rachel Day as Maria, Tamara Hardesty as the Mother Abbess, and any number of other moments in Peach State Summer Theatre’s “The Sound of Music,” you may well be beguiled by Day’s handling of the song “Do-Re-Mi.”
It is one of the most well-known songs in musical history. Almost everyone in the audience could sing along with the tune as governess Maria introduces the von Trapp children to singing: “Do, a deer, a female deer; re, a golden drop of sun; mi, a name I call myself; fa, a long long way to run ...” Many of you likely now have the tune running through your head just from reading these lines.
So, it takes a certain magic, a charismatic artistry, to feel as if one is watching the spontaneous creation of this famous song, but that is the charm that Rachel Day brings to Maria as she seems to be making up the song as she goes as a way to teach the von Trapp children the musical scale.
Even more so, though I am not a person who watches the televised “Sound of Music” movie each year, Rachel Day removed all thoughts of Julie Andrews from my mind. Day’s Maria is whimsical and compassionate, simultaneously graceful and a klutz, charming and magnetic; her voice is strong, clear and versatile, beautiful and hypnotic.
Rachel Day’s Maria is well worth the price of show admission all by herself, but she is joined by talented castmembers that complement each other throughout this performance.
The return of Michael Elliott is a welcome sight. A former VSU Theatre instructor and past PSST! performer, Elliott plays Capt. von Trapp with reserve, a man very much in control of himself through distancing himself from his children. It is fun watching Elliott’s believable transformation as Maria re-introduces the captain to his children, life and love.
Barbara Dare Thomas is another welcome PSST! return as Elsa, the woman who hopes to make the widower captain her new husband. She is joined by fellow Equity actor Jim Sorensen as Max Detweiler. Together, they provide great fun presenting songs that appear in “The Sound of Music” stage version but not in the beloved movie. Their talents and these unfamiliar songs will create new facets to this musical for many audiences.
As the Mother Abbess, Tamara Hardesty’s trained operatic voice brings several powerful moments to this production but possibly none so powerful as when she performs the show-stopper “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” at the conclusion of Act I. Her voice fills the hall of Sawyer Theatre with this song’s inspirational words.
And, of course, with nearly every step they take and each song they sing, the von Trapp children win over the audience. These talented performers are a mix of local children, as well as older actors. They are Jennifer Maurer, Michael McClain, Allie Smotherman, Nicholas Paoletti, Maggie Tarpley, Elle Scruggs, and Sofia Paoletti.
A magnificent supporting and ensemble cast complete the performances, making for an extraordinary evening.
The creative direction team keeps the cast moving and everything flowing throughout the performance. Ruth A. Brandvik’s scenic design is both eye-pleasing and practical, making for quick entry and exit from one scene to the next. Genny Lynn’s lighting strikes the right mood in each scene from the candle tones of the abbey to the clear skies of the mountainside to the dark terror of a Nazi-infested countryside. Michael Driggers as technical director keeps everything moving seamlessly. Matthew C. Mainella’s conducting of the live orchestra is perfect, never overpowering the singers, but always providing the musical spine to this show. Hardesty has kept the cast strong, in tune and in tone as vocal director. Esther Iverson’s costumes are a fine fit for every occasion within the show.
As choreographer, Eric Brandt Nielsen never misses a step. “The Sound of Music” does not have big production numbers in the traditional high-kicking Broadway style, but this show is infused with dance and Nielsen’s graceful moves.
As director, Jacque Wheeler keeps this show’s fun while never forgetting its emotional core. She creates a new experience from this most familiar of shows. Wheeler directs a “Sound of Music” that will be one of many audiences’ favorite things.
This review is based on Saturday’s opening-night performance.
Peach State Summer Theatre’s “The Sound of Music” continues at many times and dates now through July 14, Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. Times, dates, ticket prices, more information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst Box office: Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., call (229) 259-7770.