July 09, 2020

Children steal the show in `The Sound of Music’> Music teacher Valerie LaPointe is in her element as Maria; multitiered set new edge to production

If you’ve heard yodeling coming from the general direction of Ellsworth, it’s not because you’ve been eating too much strudel lately. It’s because The Grand is alive with “The Sound of Music,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical about the von Trapp family singers. The show opened last weekend to near-full houses and will play again May 27-29.

Just as with the movie, which was on TV earlier this year, this is a long production — nearly three hours. And the theater is warm enough to make you want to head for the Alps.

But director Ken Stack, music man Robert Bahr and a crew of community actor-singers make it worth re-watching a show you’ve seen at least once a year for about 30 years now.

Much of the success of this production is due to the children in the cast. Whenever the von Trapp tykes are onstage, the scenes sparkle.

Frances Jacobs is a winsome Liesl and has one of the sweetest moments of the show, singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with Andy Geel as Rolf Gruber. These teen actors show young love at its tender and trusting best.

Aaron Small (Friedrich), Angela Gray (Louisa), Troy Bannister (Kurt), Rachel Henry (Brigitta) and Sarah Upton (Marta) adeptly sing, dance and act their way into your heart. Watch out, too, for little 5-year-old Kelsey Hudson as Gretl. She’s tiny, but packs a powerful wallop with her darling smile and dear voice.

In “Do Re Mi,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “The Sound of Music,” and “So Long, Farewell,” these kids steal the show. In fact, in the last number, you may find yourself wanting to wave goodbye to each child as he or she exits in song.

Working alongside Valerie LaPointe, as Maria, must give them a great deal of confidence. LaPointe is a convincing soprano, and happens to be a music teacher, so she’s in her element with this role. She may not capture the full range of darling-demon-lamb in Maria, but she will win you over, and not just because she has plenty of elan as a singer.

Ginger Cunningham as the Mother Abbess has some deftness to both her character and singing. Dana Daniels comes on strong with her own brand of diva-ness as Elsa Schraeder. And a platoon of singing nuns offer up angelic tunes.

Although both of the male leads — John Harris as von Trapp and Chuck Somers as Max Detweiler — grow on you as the show progresses, neither of them is knockout material.

Choreographer Judy Savage makes these dancers look sharp in even the most basic of moves. Costumer Linda Grindle manages a lot of elegance in some very simple costuming, which makes Maria’s dull wedding dress and Elsa’s slinky black evening gown all the more disappointing.

Scenic designer Jessie Marshall brings a new look to the Grand with a multitiered set that shifts between an abbey, the von Trapp estate, Maria’s bedroom and a concert hall. Her father, Mount Desert Island painter Ian Marshall, painted the backdrop of a mountain scene, blending winter colors and craggy cliffs.

Robert Bahr’s musicians blurted out a few ear-cramping sounds during one of last weekend’s performances, but in general do a decent job with the score.

“The Sound of Music” will be performed 8 p.m. May 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. May 29 at The Grand in Ellsworth. For tickets, call 667-9500.

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