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Sour production notes mar ‘Sound of Music’ greatness

  • COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
    Sarah Juliette Halford, center, stars as Maria in "The Sound of Music."
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Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse didn’t write "The Sound of Music" as a political statement, but 50 years after the show first opened on Broadway the issues it addresses are surprisingly topical.

Georg Ludwig von Trapp served with honor in the Austro-Hungarian navy in World War I, but although an ally of Germany in that war, he despised the Nazis who came to power in the ’30s and opposed their plans to unite the two German-speaking nations into a "Greater Germany." After the two countries were peacefully united, von Trapp was recalled to service — this time in the German navy and subject to the orders of a government whose policies he disagreed with.

Diamond Head Theatre’s season-closing production of the Broadway classic brings the political issues to the table while simultaneously doing justice to the show’s stirring love story and some of the most popular songs in 20th-century musical theater.

‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC’

Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.

When: 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, except 7:30 p.m. July 29-30; matinee performances at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 8

Cost: $12 to $42 (discounts available for students, military, seniors and children)

Info: 733-0274 or www.diamondheadtheatre.com

 

Director-choreographer Greg Zane has a marvelous find in Sarah Juliette Halford (Maria). Halford establishes herself as a vocalist with her first number, but it is in her scenes with Trissa DeBenedetto Walter (The Mother Abbess) and Buz Tennent (Capt. von Trapp) that her skills as an actor become apparent.

Tennent is a perfect choice as von Trapp. He looks every inch a former naval officer and full-time martinet, and towers giantlike over the others — women, children and Nazis alike. Tennent’s acting skills serve him especially well in the scenes where von Trapp’s formal demeanor finally softens and his emotions are rekindled.

Nicole Chaffin (Liesl), Chase Bridgman (Freidrich), Malia Lane (Louisa), Ari Dalbert (Kurt), Chelsea Lynne Michel (Brigitta), Kira Stone (Marta) and Riley Newton (Gretl) are engaging as the individual von Trapp children, while also in sync as an ensemble.

Chaffin conveys the innocence and naivete of a girl on the edge of womanhood in "Sixteen Going On Seventeen." The number also shows Beau Brians (Rolf) a competent romantic lead as he plays Liesl’s would-be boyfriend, an idealistic young Nazi who believes that Austria’s future lies with Germany.

Scott Moura (Max Detweiler) personifies unabashed self-interest as the apolitical impresario for whom ideology is irrelevant as long as the ideologues in power will let him make money. Jennifer Cleve Sojot (Elsa Schrader) is also good in the more complicated role of Capt. von Trapp’s wealthy fiancee. Moura and Sojot step forward impressively as vocalists with "No Way To Stop It," a song representing the views of pragmatists of all eras.

Walter brings Act I to a stirring close with her powerful rendition of "Climb Ev’ry Mountain." Daniel James Kunkel (Zeller) snarls and growls and all but foams at the mouth as the local Nazi bigwig.

Unfortunately, bad choices in costuming and props design mar the production. The German navy never wore swastika armbands, and having Richard Aadland wear one while playing a German admiral is in inexcusably bad taste. There is also a needless redesign of the universally recognized Nazi flag. What’s worse, the infamous banner is supposed to appear for shock value late in the show, but rather than ambushing the audience, on opening night it dropped haphazardly and looked like a giant wrinkled bed sheet someone had forgotten to iron.

 

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