Monday, August 8, 2011

TWO ON THE AISLE: Sounding Off on Rogers & Hammerstein

She Said: THE SOUND OF MUSIC: How do they solve this problem at the Reagle? The dilemma being that most productions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC are so reverential that there aren’t any surprises left (especially for reviewers who have seen it umpteen times at Reagle and elsewhere). Not this time. This time THE SOUND OF MUSIC is a delight!

He Said: In Sarah Pfisterer, director Larry Sousa is fortunate enough to have found an actress with the energy and voice to bring life to what often can be bland and one-dimensional. She embodies the “flibbertyjib, a wil-o-the-wisp, a clown” a and we see the angel.

She: Sarah Pfisterer has performed the role of Maria at Reagle before but never so mischievously. That’s the director’s touch. Even the Mother Abbess is kicking up her heels.

He: Especially in the reprise of “My Favorite Things” when Jenny Lynn Stewart as the Mother Superior lets her wimple down! Maria’s joie de vivre infects the entire production… and the von Trapp children, who often sacrifice talent for cuteness, emerge as three dimensional, individual characters, toads and all.

She: This director escapes many of the traps (or should we say von Trapps) inherent in Rogers & Hammerstein’s overworked but beloved musical. Even the scenes in front of the curtain (so scenery can be removed and re-set) are charming interludes, with happy nuns and rambunctious children enjoying themselves.

He: The “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” scene, featuring the lovely Gillian Gordon and James Forbes Sheehan as the adolescents who fall in love, is now one of the musical highlights of the evening, thanks to Susan Chebookjian’s clever staging and simple but elegant choreography.

She: Gordon is a triple threat: She can act, sing and dance like a veteran and she’s only a teenager! Alas, less effective are two of the secondary leads. Neither Susan Scannell nor Rick Sherburne (as sympathizers) evince the cynicism or sophistication to represent the evil behind the compromise which enabled the Nazi’s triumph. It’s a wonder they were even able to annex Austria, judging by the Keystone Krauts who arrive on scene at Reagle to heighten the danger. The peril awaiting the von Trapps must be palpable and it just isn’t.

He: You mean The Drei Stoogen? We shouldn’t be laughing at incompetent Nazis. We should be terrified. More attention should be paid to characterization…and to chemistry. Perhaps Brigitta (the adorable Victoria Blanchard) saw more in the relationship between her father and Maria than we did. Patrick Cassidy’s best moment was the Captain’s heartfelt rendition of “Edelweiss.” He made it a truly moving expression of loss.

He and She: All in all, the Reagle’s SOUND OF MUSIC is a crowd pleaser. How could it not be with Pfisterer and seven consummate professionals as the children! Even the missteps pleased the crowd. When Jeffrey Leonard heroically vamped the same eight bars for five minutes due to a backstage technical delay, the audience clapped along in the generous spirit of the show. Then the moment was topped by a resourceful Cassidy, hilariously adlibbing, as the curtain finally rose, about “the same tune running over and over in his head for some reason.”

THE SOUND OF MUSIC runs through August 14th at the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston.  B. C. & J. D.