The Singing Nuns Are At It Again- This Time, “Sound Of Music” Gets the Stages Touch

Casey Erin Clark, as Maria, let’s us know that “The hills are alive with the sound of music” during the Stages St. Louis production. Photo credit: Peter Wochnicak.

Probably the most oft produced musical in the world, “The Sound Of Music” fills the air again but this time it gets the magic of a Stages production. Staying true to the original version despite inserting some of the movie music, this is a solid, well acted and well sung production that is the perfect way to see this old warhorse.

The first thing Stages got right is not playing the “cutesy” card with the children. These Von Trapp kids get by on talent and charisma. Phoebe Desilets, Grace Clark, Morgan McDonald, Braden Phillips, Julia Schweizer, Matthew Howard and Heidi Giberson are all smart, well disciplined actors who don’t resort to mugging to get to the heart of these charming children. Miss Giberson also gets to shine with her exuberant  rendition of “16 Going On 17” with co-star Matt Leisy. The kids get a real work out in this show and they shine in “Lonely Goatherd,” “Do-Re-Mi” and the number that helps them again at plays’ end, “So Long, Farewell.”

Casey Erin Clark is nothing short of delightful as the full-of-life Maria who wants a calling as a nun but just doesn’t fit into that mold. She handles the pesky opening title number with a charm and sense of wit that I’ve never seen in the numerous stage productions I’ve seen of this show. And her scenes with her fellow actors, especially the Captain, ring true to her character. Her only downfall is being forced to wear a stiff, ill fitting wig that looks like Pippi Longstocking without the pigtails. As Captain Von Trapp, David Schmittou continues his versatile ways on the Stages stage with emotion and a turn-on-a-dime sensitivity that really works.

William Thomas Evans, David Schmittou and Kari Ely tell us there’s “No Way To Stop It” during the Stages St. Louis production of “The Sound of Music.” Photo credit: Peter Wochniak.

Suzanne Ishee hits all the right notes as the Mother Abbess- especially the vocal notes that end her spectacular First Act closer, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” This is truly a highlight of the show. Kari Ely and William Thomas Evans bring the house down with their great characters- she as the Captain’s betrothed and he as a businessman who is willing to go along with the horrors of the upcoming war but makes the ultimate sacrifice during the gut-wrenching finale. They have two songs that were cut from the film version but really carry the impetus of the story. Glad to see them performed again with the impact they deserve.

Stages veterans John Flack and Zoe Vonder Haar sparkle as part of the Von Trapp household and both portend the tragedy that is about to hit their beloved Austria- though they take separate ways to that end. And, as “assistants” to the Mother Abbess, Karin Berutti and Michele Burdette Elmore are nuns taking opposing sides in the “Maria” controversy. Ms. Elmore gets the best laughs of the evening when she discovers some “unmentionables” in Maria’s suitcase.

The Von Trapp children bid us “So Long, Farewell” during “The Sound of Music” at Stages St. Louis. Photo credit: Peter Wochniak.

As usual, the Stages chorus and extras- a large number of them in this show- are precise and powerful. Nobody takes second fiddle in this musical- they all have an important role and play it just that way. The team of director Michael Hamilton and choreographer Dana Lewis has once again put a top-notch show on stage for us. Although restricted by the small stage, scenic designer Mark Halpin has managed to bring a “big” feel to the show and Lou Bird’s costumes along with the strong lighting design of Matthew McCarthy bring us full circle.

You love it or you hate it, but “The Sound Of Music” is an iconic musical that has not lost its charm on stage over the years despite the enormous popularity of the film. With the solid Stages cast, it’s a pleasure to see it again with songs and scenes intact.  To see how it’s meant to be done, catch it at Stages through August 19th. Give them a call at 314-821-2407 for tickets or more information.

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