SARATOGA SPRINGS — “The Sound of Music” filled the Vista Heights Middle School auditorium Thursday evening, as more than 40 community members performed for an enthusiastic audience in the first official Saratoga Springs Arts Council theater production.
For those unfamiliar with the pre-WWII era story, Maria Rainer, an incorrigible young novitiate at the local abbey, is given the assignment to be governess to Captain Von Trapp’s seven motherless children. Captain Von Trapp is a naval officer and runs his house like a ship. Maria wins the children over, along with the Captain. They marry, but their honeymoon is cut short when the Nazis take over Austria and try to commandeer the Captain into accepting a naval commission. The family escapes by walking over the Austrian mountains into Switzerland.
Based on a true story, “The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers,” the play, first performed in 1959, differs in significant ways from the movie that was released in 1965.
The play opens in the Nonnberg Abbey, with the beautiful “Preludium” sung by the nuns. As an ensemble, the nuns blend well, but have a few intonation issues.
All of the main roles demand singing as well as acting. Director Kris Jennings made good choices in casting and directing the production.
Emily Marble (The Mother Abbess) has a rich, lovely voice, which is showcased when she sings “Climb Every Mountain” at the end of Act 1. Anna Daines’ (Maria Rainer) voice is also outstanding.
The seven Von Trapp children, played by Savanna Sanborn (Liesl), Casey Josephson (Friedrich), Dana Kuntz (Louisa), Kyle Hodder (Kurt), Jessie June Castleton (Brigitta), Naomi Rose Castleton (Marta), and Suzannah Sundstrom (Gretl) are delightful. They sing together nicely and each does a fine job of playing his or her role, but the youngest, Gretl, is a show stealer. Her short solos are sung with confidence and right on pitch.
Jarin Stevens (Captain Georg Von Trapp), Heather Butler (Elsa Schraeder) and David Christensen (Max Detweiler) also give nice performances. The three of them have a couple of fun numbers together that are not in the movie — “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It.”
Other cast members include Anna Butler, (Sister Berthe), Jana Conrad (Sister Sophia), CJ Stott (Franz), Debra Woods (Frau Schmidt), Michael McConkie (Rolf Gruber), Georgia Farr (Ursula) and Max Andrus (Herr Zeller).
Effective lighting, done by Kris Jennings, works nicely with Joel Farnsworth’s set design and at the end of the second act creates the illusion that the audience in the auditorium is the concert hall festival audience the Von Trapps are performing for.
The set is simple and effective: A stone wall divided by a stairway center stage provides the backdrop for all the locations, which are created with lighting and set pieces efficiently moved on and off stage by cast members.
Traditional-looking Austrian costumes designed by Meg Butler and Kimberly Holley are beautiful, but the other dress styles don’t seem congruent with 1930's fashions of pre-Nazi Austria.
The production crew also includes Terri J. Pontius, music director; Katie Higbee, choreographer; Colton Roberts, stage manager; and Debra Woods and Max Andrus, props.
Overall, it’s a great community theater effort, worth the time to go see.
The production plays through Aug. 18. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at Vista Heights Middle School (464 Pony Express Parkway) in Saratoga Springs. The production is about 2-and-a-half hours long with a 10-minute intermission. For ticket information visit soundofmusicsaratoga.weebly.com.