The children gathered around Maria to sing during the performance of "The Sound of Music" at Okoboji Summer Theatre this week. The final production of the 2016 OST season ends Sunday night after eight sold-out performances of the classic musical.
(I preface this review by saying my grandson Quinn was one of the children in the play so I was extremely nervous on opening night. I am writing this as unbiased and neutral in my thinking as I can possibly be.)
The final offering of the 2016 Okoboji Summer Theatre season was the beloved classic "The Sound of Music." It is probably the only musical in which we can sing all the songs word-for-word. So how does a theatre company do something so familiar differently to draw and please an audience? OST used a combination of elements to achieve success with this week's show.
"The Sound of Music" has a huge cast of 28, plus seven musicians in the band backstage. Nineteen of them are Stephens College students, three professional actors, five area children, plus one local adult. Director/choreographer Paul Finacchiaro, Professor of Theatre & Dance at the University of Tampa, melded all these people together. While the talent was there, he found the best way for them to showcase that talent and shine. Musical director Nancy Epoch, a retired professor of music, had the delightful task of getting outstanding musical performances from one of the largest groups of extremely talented vocal students a person could dream to work with. Bravo to both Finacchiaro and Epoch. The acting, singing and dancing were absolutely top-notch.
The chorus of nuns sang a Preludium in Latin that was breathtakingly beautiful! The largest cathedral in New York City would envy a chorus like this one.
I love the set. It was designed by Ken George to be both lovely to look at and serviceable for different locations. From the actor's perspective, Quinn told me he loved the set because it was easy to walk and dance around in. I had not thought of it from that perspective before.
I believe the wardrobe designer Cami Huebert and her crew deserve a standing ovation. I know the children (seven of them) had six costumes each. Add to that the large cast of adults, all who needed multiple costumes (except the nuns). This was a monumental undertaking and the results were stunningly accurate. I could not convince Quinn to want to keep his leiterhausen made from curtains. They were so ugly, I thought they were cute!
Talia McCall has a wonderful voice. She was marvelous as Maria. My heart stopped beating when she accidentally fell down four steps near the end of the second act. While still a student, she picked herself up and kept right on going with the play as if nothing had happened; a really professional performance. The entire audience was grateful that she wasn't hurt in that mishap.
Gregory Stuart was a fantastic Captain Von Trapp. His gorgeous singing voice and debonair acting were perfect for that role.
I really enjoyed Sam Cordes as the scoundrel Max Detweiler. He stepped up to the plate in the last two weeks to do the role originally slated for Rob Doyen, who suffered a knee injury. Cordes was super in this role.
The seven Von Trapp children were a delight. College students Madison Welch and Austin Taylor Smith assumed the roles of the two oldest: Liesl and Friedrich respectively. The other five children were played by technical director Nathan Lee's daughter Sarah, Quinn Masek from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and local youngsters Catherine Straus, Paige Ross and Kiana Leistikow. They spoke, sang and danced like it was the easiest thing to do. By Sunday night they will have done this show eight times in six days to 3,200 people and it doesn't seem to phase them a bit. They were not nervous on opening night and really seemed to totally enjoy what they were doing.
The Mother Abbess (Madeline Campbell) was hard to hear when speaking on opening night. The tech crew seemed to be having trouble with all the principal actors' microphones because they kept fading in and out, so when she spoke we couldn't hear but when she sang, we heard her extremely well. She has a lovely voice.
Megan Wagner, as Elsa Schraeder, used facial expressions and body language extremely well.
Professional actor Jordan Halsey was a believable Rolf Gruber and Dalton Mobley a formidable Herr Zeller.
There are too many in the cast to mention them all.
The best way to sum it up is to say it was a wonderful musical performance on many, many levels. The eight sold-out performances are testament to the power of a musical that premiered 51 years ago and the huge talented staff at OST who did it justice.
It is hard to imagine the summer season at OST is over. I want to say a huge thank you to Ruth Ann Burke, Gail Humphries Mardirosian, Rob Doyen, Michael Burke and everyone who put together a lineup of nine shows that were each different, but all done extremely well. I loved the variety!
Although we say farewell for 2016, I believe I can say for the thousands of us who saw the shows, we can hardly wait to see what you come up with for the big 60th celebration next year!