SIGHTS BET­TER THAN ‘SOUND’

> CLAS­SIC MU­SI­CAL COM­MEND­ABLE EF­FORT DE­SPITE SMALL VENUE

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Christo­pher Blank

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

No scene from a movie mu­si­cal has ap­peared in more dreams than the one where Julie An­drews runs across a ver­dant green hill­top amid soar­ing snow­capped moun­tains, singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of mu­sic, with songs they have sung for a thou­sand years!”

Her out­stretched arms are like so­lar pan­els, ab­sorb­ing the glory of the world. Her voice trum­pets the joy of life al­most to the point of ab­sur­dity.

But it’s that same mo­ment that de­fines “The Sound of Mu­sic,” Rodgers and Ham­mer­stein’s time­less tale of a nun who turns nanny. That sense of alive­ness is the heart and soul of any stag­ing of the mu­si­cal.

There is cer­tainly great pres­sure on the young and tal­ented ac­tress Emily Chateau to claim, as her own, this in­fec­tious vi­tal­ity in The­atre Mem­phis’ new pro­duc­tion, which started the 2009-10 sea­son last week­end with a nearly sold-out per­for­mance.

She is charm­ing and en­er­getic in the role of Maria through­out the show, but start­ing from when Chateau rushes for­ward with those beloved lyrics, singing in a cau­tious, child­like vi­brato and not in the con­fi­dant, go-for-broke belt, one be­gins to no­tice sim­i­lar short­falls of di­rec­tion in the pro­duc­tion by guest di­rec­tor Christina J. Moore.

Some quib­bles may be a mat­ter of taste: but for me, when Maria looks and sounds as if she could be the same age as the chil­dren she’s gov­ern­ing, it makes the in­evitable mar­riage be­tween her and the old wid­owed Cap­tain von Trapp, played by the en­dear­ing Bar­clay Roberts, seem ex­tremely un­ro­man­tic.

Else­where, nuns sound ro­botic in their line read­ings. Not a word sung by Christina Well­ford Scott, play­ing von Trapp’s love in­ter­est, could be un­der­stood, per­haps due to tech­ni­cal prob­lems. And then there is the repet­i­tive­ness of the mu­si­cal it­self; six songs have reprises.

What The­ater Mem­phis does pro­vide in spades is mem­o­rable stage pic­tures. The moun­tains of Aus­tria lit­er­ally rise over the von Trapp manse thanks to Christo­pher McCol­lum’s clever set de­sign. The seven von Trapp chil­dren are all su­per cute (with the su­per­cutest of them all be­ing third-grader Paige Rob­bins Hol­len­beck as Gretl, the youngest).

Gary Beard’s ver­sa­tile mu­sic di­rec­tion brings out the gar­ish, fun side of “Do -Re -Me,” the re­li­gious fer­vor of “Climb Ev’ry Moun­tain” and the de­cep­tive in­no­cence of “Edel­weiss.”

Though it doesn’t quite reach its peak po­ten­tial, this “Sound of Mu­sic” is none­the­less a ma­jor com­mu­nity the­ater ef­fort climb­ing ev’ry au­di­ence mem­ber’s moun­tain of mem­o­ries, re­mind­ing us that the 1959 Broad­way hit is still as green as that pas­ture in our dreams.

Per­form­ing as The von Trapp Fam­ily Singers in “The Sound of Mu­sic” at The­atre Mem­phis, the chil­dren are Paige Rob­bins Hol­len­beck, Cather­ine Bog­gan, Char­lotte Ni­chols, Sam Shankman, Mikayla House, Lauren Du­na­vant and Henry Wid­dop.

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