Review: ‘Sound of Music’ sings at Diamond Head Theatre
Howard Lindsey, Russel Crouse and Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “The Sound of Music” in 1959 as equal parts intergenerational romance and “Profiles in Courage,” the bestseller written by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts about men who had put integrity and honor ahead of personal advantage.
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Howard Lindsey, Russel Crouse and Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “The Sound of Music” in 1959 as equal parts intergenerational romance and “Profiles in Courage,” the bestseller written by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts about men who had put integrity and honor ahead of personal advantage. Diamond Head Theatre’s production of the perennially popular musical addresses both sides of the story in effective style.
Romance is represented first and foremost by Sarah Halford, star of DHT’s 2010 staging of the show and every bit as good this time. Halford owns the show from the first lines of her first number. In the scenes that follow — with Mary Chesnut Hicks (The Mother Abbess) and Matthew Pennaz (Captain von Trapp) — Halford’s skills as an actress become apparent as we watch a sheltered young woman learn to face her fears and follow her heart.
Pennaz is instantly believable as a former naval officer and widower shielding his emotions with cold formality. Pennaz’s finely calibrated work with Halford in the scenes where von Trapp’s emotions are rekindled makes those pivotal moments satisfyingly romantic.
The von Trapp children — Kiara Reeves (Liesl), Jack Dias (Friedrich), Emi Sampson (Louisa), Pono Lundell (Kurt), Grace Gibertson (Brigitta), Rockell Kim (Marta) and Anna Johnson (Gretl) — are a delightful team. Gibertson has several spotlight moments as the child who “cannot tell a lie.” Reeves brings the enchanting promise of young love to the playful “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” opposite Miles Kroeker (Rolf Gruber).
Hicks closes Act 1 with a powerful rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and makes it an inspirational anthem. She shares credit with Stephanie Curtis Conching (Sister Margaretta), Trudi Melohn (Sister Berthe) and Christine Kluvo (Sister Sophia) for the success of “Maria” as the four senior nuns contemplate how best to handle her.
Mo Radke (Max Detweiler) has one of the show’s best comic lines — the pragmatic free-loading impresario cheerfully confesses to the wealthy von Trapp that “I like rich people.” Kelley Rees (Elsa Schraeder) contributes another spot-on performance as von Trapp’s wealthy and pragmatic love interest.
The political half of the story is driven by the unification of Germany and Austria in 1938. Von Trapp had served with honor in the Austro-Hungarian navy in World War I but despised the Nazis who’d come to power in Germany in 1933.
He was outspoken in opposing their plan — favored by many Austrians — to unite the two nations. After the two countries were peacefully united, von Trapp was recalled to service — this time in the German navy — where he would be serving a government whose policies he vehemently opposed.
Unfortunately, the opening night performance was marred by what appeared to be a miscue. In the scene where the universally reviled Nazi flag suddenly appears on stage, it was hung backward. This turned what should have been a moment of shock and revulsion — and a validation of von Trapp’s decision — into a unfortunate distraction.