As promised by one Broadway’s most popular tunes, “The hills are alive with the sound of music….” so is the Artists’ Theatre, where the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Sound of Music” is sure enthrall a new generation for the next few weekends.
Based on the 1959 musical rather than the slightly different 1965 film, the production includes a cast that spans the school district rather not just the usual high school thespians.
After all, Capt. Georg von Trapp, played by Jackson Tupy, had seven children ranging in age from 5 to 17. The role of the 5-year-old belongs to kindergartner Isabelle Lalouette, who steals the show with her uninhibited warbling of “Do-Re-Mi,” a song that she also performed at this year’s Top of the World Elementary talent show, winning her the role as Gretl. Younger children also include sixth grader Eilidh Stalker (Brigitta) and forth-grader Annamarie McIntosh (Marta).
The musical, sure to elicit a few tears along with a desire to hum along to familiar tunes, delves into deeper issues such as loss, love, loyalty, personal identity and integrity.
Take, for instance, the character of Rolf, portrayed by Nicholas Leighton, the 17-year-old delivery boy who falls for 16-year-old Liesl von Trapp (Sarah Busic). His loyalty is tested after he joins Hitler Youth and later finds himself having to chose whether to denounce her family or turn a blind eye to the Trapps’ decision to flee Austria.
“It was a challenge to put myself into that role, of making the transition of being just a kid with a new girlfriend to someone pushed into something I had no interest in at first and then embraced all the way,” he said.
Chandler Davis as Maria also undergoes a profound transformation. Mother Superior (Haley Castuera) dispatches the young postulant, questionably suited for convent life girl, to the van Trapp household. She blossoms into a wise-beyond-her-years governess to a young wife and mother and ultimately into an ex-patriot, forced to flee her homeland. “This is a story of love and life and connection to nature and home and acceptance,” said Davis.
Standing at attention before their father and his guests, attired in small versions of Austro-Hungarian Navy uniforms, Laguna kids as young von Trapps snap into line, summoned by their papa’s whistle to march for exercise. But, as Brigitta puts it, there’s room for mischief. And Liesl professes no need for a governess, but for a friend. Previous governesses had quit, aghast at finding toads in their bed and other pranks.
Maria is the old man’s last hope. Initially, he wants to sack her over her free-form notions of child rearing. A few turns later, including a ditched socialite fiancee, he falls for Maria and she, after a brief return to the convent, agrees to marry him.
The show gains poignancy from the interaction between actors in varying stages of childhood and youth. Last week, the troupe took to the road, sharing a few scenes at elementary schools, and later a cadre of “nuns” fanned out through downtown, treating shopkeepers and passersby to random acts of performance art.
It culminated in a songfest on Main Beach, said director Mark Dressler. “I am astounded by the community. We needed little kids and more than 100 showed up with their parents.” Altogether 250 people auditioned, he said.
“Sound of Music,” at the Artists’ Theatre, 625 Park Ave.. March 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, and 31 at 7:30 p.m. and March 18, 25, and April 1 at 2:30 p.m. Students, $10; adults, $15; reserved. $20. LBHS box office. 949-497-7769.
Photography by Mitch Ridder.