By ELLEN FERRY. Anyone in search of the perfect evening out this holiday season should certainly consider a stroll under the glittering lights of St. Paul’s Rice Park, followed by a visit to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. For a production as iconic as Rodger and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” I can think of no better venue than the aristocratic downtown locale. The glowing holiday décor in the theatre lobby reflected the stateliness of the von Trapp family; I was certain the production would be nothing less than glorious.
The show was adequately heartwarming and I left the theatre smiling; on the whole, however, “The Sound of Music” lacked the splendor I’d anticipated.
Billie Wildrick delivered a powerful sound as Maria, navigating Rodger and Hammerstein’s sweeping phrases with sensitivity and poise. Unfortunately, the maturity in her voice was not evident in her character. Her bouncy blonde curls contributed to a palpable innocence that underserved her role as a governess, and the meticulousness with which she communicated her character’s thought processes made her performance feel labored.
Captain von Trapp, played by Dieter Bierbrauer, also appeared too juvenile for comfort. His transformation from stoic head-of-household to a warm, devoted father was perceptible, but faint.
The romance between Liesl, the eldest von Trapp child (played by Caroline Innerbichler), and Rolf, the telegram boy (played by Matthew Rubbelke), sizzled more in a single “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” than the connection between Bierbrauer and Wildrick all show long. Innerbichler and Rubbelke’s moment in the spotlight was lighthearted and natural, not to mention beautifully choreographed.
The von Trapp children were a sheer delight. Brigitta, portrayed by Natalie Tran, was exceptionally adorable. She delivered her brutally honest one-liners with straight-faced conviction. The group made numbers like “Do-Re-Mi” bubble with energy and charm.
In a staging faux pas, all seven children were made to shuffle like a herd of cattle through a single doorway on the stage (the entrance to their home). This happened more than once, and the result was always cumbersome and distracting. The doorway served as the anchor of the von Trapp family’s courtyard, the most naturalistic scene of the show (though the mountain backdrop was painted in an abstract, impressionist style). Unfortunately, the abbey and several other scenes were neglected in terms of set design—in some cases, they were nothing more than projections that discolored the actors in front of them.
Though amicable, “The Sound of Music” at the Ordway lacks the sophistication one would hope to see in such a time-honored piece of musical theatre. Still, audiences of all ages will appreciate the beloved songs and uplifting story.
The Sound of Music runs December 10th through January 2nd 2016 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington Street, St. Paul, MN 55102. Tickets are available at http://www.ordway.org or by calling the box office at 651-224-4222.
Ellen Ferry, a recent graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, is passionate about singing, swing dancing and theatre. She enjoys her day job as a member of the Human Resources team at Lifetouch.