A seat in the first row balcony provides an entirely new perspective of this beautiful theatre, which was packed with families this afternoon. But seeing a version of the original stage play also made this an unsettling performance.
We all know the movie, the songs, and in which scenes the songs are performed. This started right off with “My Favorite Things” in the Abbey, when we all know that’s the song sung “during the storm” scene. The play gave us “The Lonely Goatherd” during the storm instead.
There’s no “I Have Confidence” but there are three additional songs unknown to movie audiences, “How Can Love Survive,” “No Way To Stop It,” and “An Ordinary Couple.” The love story plot is changed and the end result remains the same but without “I Must Have Done Something Good.” Rolf is not a snitch in this play but was in the movie - major change-up.
So other than these shakeups, the production was quite effective, complete with singing nuns dispersed throughout the theatre for the opening number. Maria mis-stepped slightly while climbing her stage hill for her “The Hills Are Alive” and the choreography during the song was clumsy. Her voice went slightly sharp or flat on several numbers and she doesn’t have near the octave range of Julie Andrews (maybe Mother Abbess) but then who does?
Spot on was Mother Abbess, Darla Wortley. Looking up her bio information in the program during intermission, I found she is a member of the Opera Grand Rapids chorus; her voice was so controlled and stunning, and with a huge range. She blew the house away with her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain.”
Max Detweiler (Andrew Schneider) was hilarious and the children were all good to great. Rolf and Liesl (Joshua Regan and Lydia Blickley) were sweet in their “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” number and had obvious ballet training. When the children sang together, the harmonies were beautiful and mesmerizing. All in all, the cast was a wonderful ensemble.
The second to the last scene, when the Von Trapp family is performing at the festival while planning their escape, came complete with Nazi banners rolled out and soldiers placed strategically throughout the theatre, including up in the lights (middle section in photo). It was a little eerie.
What’s left to say other than either due to the balcony acoustics or the attendees, I heard candy paper rustling and audience whispering the entire time. My seat was a little too far right but all in all, first row balcony is pretty sweet seating. Cheers to live theater!