The hillside around the Zilker Theatre was alive with chatting, eating, and playing on Thursday night as children and adults of all ages lounged on a patchwork quilt of blankets spread across the grass. Some groups had arrived as early as 6 p.m. – two and a half hours before the performance began – in order to claim a spot on the crowded lawn. Others, like myself, were returning to the hillside with fingers crossed, anxiously watching the sky for rain clouds after Sunday’s performance had been rained out.
Instead of rain, we had a glorious blushing pink sky with ethereal clouds and even a cool breeze running across our bare feet from time to time. The evening’s natural ambiance was a fitting backdrop to the beautiful stage set that transformed the open-air Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater into a picture of the mountains that surround Salzburg, Austria.
Undoubtedly, the film production of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews is, and always will be, the most beloved version of the musical. However the production on Thursday, directed by M. Scott Tatum, would have made Rodgers and Hammerstein sing with joy and pride. With solid and enthusiastic performances by the entire cast, an incredibly beautiful and cleverly maneuvered set design, and an orchestra worthy of its own standing ovation, Zilker Theatre Production’s The Sound of Music is worth getting out of the house to see. All the treasured standards like “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Me” are performed, but fun variations in the musical along with less familiar tunes like “No Way to Stop” allow ZTP’s production to step away from being constantly compared to the movie.
One song that you might miss is “Something Good” between Maria and Captain von Trapp. Similarly in the production though Michelle Hache makes a spunky Maria and the Captain, played by Joshua Denning, is as stern as always, there is some chemistry missing between the two. The Captain’s love interest, Baroness Schraeder (Leslie Hollingsworth), appears as less of an evil character than I remember as a child. The development of her relationship with the Captain is mature and sensible, making her likeable enough to where I almost wish she could have married the Captain after all. The most entertaining love story, however, occurs between sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old Liesl (Alyssa Muir) and seventeen-going-on-eighteen year old Rolf (Jordan Barron). Teens in the audience watching Liesl and Rolf’s “timid and shy” romance develop will gain some perspective on young love. Their parents will appreciate the messages relayed about being cautious and kind, and talking to your parents or mentors about your feelings.
The most impressive message of the evening – perhaps because it is delivered by Coty Ross’s majestic voice – is that you cannot run away from your problems but must instead “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” to find what is right in life for you. As the von Trapp family ventures out into the Alps of Zilker Park the Mother Abbess (Ross), a kindred spirit of Maria’s who also grew up on the Austrian mountains, gives an inspiring solo bolstered by a pure and robust voice. Every member of the audience will leave happily humming a medley of show tunes and encouraged to follow their dreams as they also climb the hillside back to their cars.
The story has something for audiences of all ages. Whether you are attending with your family, on a date, or enjoying an evening with a group of friends, Zilker’s production certainly will not disappoint – unless it gets rained out. So be sure to catch The Sound of Music at the Zilker Hillside Theatre before it is too late!
The performance runs Thursdays – Sundays through August 11, 2012. The show starts at 8:30pm, but get their early (blankets are allowed on the lawn beginning at 6pm) to claim a spot with the best view.
Admission is free, parking is $5, donations are greatly appreciated and well-deserved.
blog by Margie Eades