Four months after the Dayton Playhouse elegantly saluted Rodgers and Hammerstein with the musical revue “A Grand Night for Singing,” the organization successfully closes its season with a very pleasant, emotionally honest production of the iconic duo’s final collaboration “The Sound of Music.”
Despite the unmistakable schmaltz inherent in Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s strong libretto and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s marvelously infectious score, this engaging tale circa 1938 Austria of postulant Maria Rainer and her unexpected bond with Captain George von Trapp and his seven children strikes a chord. Director Brian Sharp embraces the material with a surprisingly traditionalist outlook (particularly using the original script/score featuring “An Ordinary Couple” instead of the revised edition containing film favorites “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good”), but he effectively emphasizes the transformative impact of song within the grief-tinged Trapp family thanks to Maria’s influence. The family finally has a reason to feel reborn and grow harmoniously closer when their voices blend, an element I haven’t sensed in previous productions. In fact, when Maria is told she has brought music back into the Trapp household it is a misty-eyed moment of genuine gratitude that touchingly reiterates Sharp’s approach.
Kelli Locker, an actress who sings, is a highly commendable Maria. She not only grasps Maria’s perky innocence and desire to be liked but the conflicted emotions born of her evolution into womanhood. Locker is also perfectly partnered with the absolutely terrific David Shough, the best Georg I have seen in years. In addition to offering a beautifully tender rendition of “Edelweiss,” Shough fully understands the fine line between pertinent sternness and off-putting rigidity, ensuring his well-crafted performance, which evolves impeccably, maintains an authoritative amiability.
In featured roles, Stephanie Shubert (Liesl), Logan Trzeciak (Friedrich), Taylor Winkleski (Louisa), Ben Kneblik (Kurt), Hope Whitestone (Brigitta), Sophia Shannon (Marta) and the particularly adorable Cate Shannon (Gretl) are enjoyable as the Trapp children. Joan Harrah (Mother Abbess), Laura Bloomingdale (Elsa Schraeder) and James Trzeciak (Max Dettweiler) are vocally strong and offer firm portrayals. As frustrated housekeeper Frau Schmidt, Dodie Lockwood offers a sharp perspective of the Trapp family past and present. David Stephen Thomas (an appealing Rolf), Terry Lupp (Sister Margareta), Cathy Long (Sister Berthe), Marabeth Klejna (Sister Sophia), David Lindsley (Franz) and Craig Smith (Herr Zeller) are also notable.
Bruce Brown provides an excellent scenic design. Costumer Marilyn Johnson supplies a lovely blue dress for Locker late in Act 1. Musical director Ron Kindell leads a steady orchestra.
“The Sound of Music” continues through May 27 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 90 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $10-$15. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.com