NUNS, NAZI’S AND A SINGING FAMILY - DO RE MI - IS THE NEW CLASSIC HOLIDAY MUSICAL
65 YEARS OLD “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” STILL CHARMS LOCAL AUDIENCES WITH ALL THE CLASSIC RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN SONGS - THIS HOLIDAY SEASON THE HILLS ARE ALIVE IN FOSTER CITY AT THE HILLBARN THEATRE.
Review by Vince Mediaa
This Holiday Season the hills are alive in Foster City - The von Trapp family and Maria are sure you will be their “Favorite Things” to brighten your Christmas day. THE SOUND OF MUSIC is now on stage at the Hillbarn stage through December 17th. The 65 year old musical features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, translated from the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp family, real-life Austrian musical family. Artistic Director of the Hillbarn Stephen Muterspaugh says this production was set to open the 80th season at the HBT “Now in our 82nd season/ this musical was worth the wait, this story reminds us that love, courage, and the joy of music can overcome any challenge.” Directed by Dennis Lickteig he cast his company with brilliant POC actors “We hope our production will inspire audiences to experience the show with fresh eyes and an open heart.” Verses an all white cast; It was truly refreshing to see this beautiful cast of color.
The flawless Sophia Alawi who plays Maria, opens the story with the banner song “The Sound of Music” and shows off her commanding voice. My readers have seen this musical and movie many times so I won’t dwell on the story, but focus on the craft team and actors of this excellent production. Hillbarns SOUND OF MUSIC is one of the best performances of this production I have seen to date. From the nuns to the children, this musical is iconic. The singing is ideal, you want to join the cast to sing your favorite songs. Everyone in this production is priceless.
The solid Sarah Jebian as The Mother Abbess sings the classic “Maria” and “My Favorite Things” with Alawi. Both have thrilling voices and are balanced by Debra Lamberts music direction and her marvelous nine member orchestra. Her work with all of the actors and the children created a full-bodied sound that thrusts Rodger and Hammerstein’s iconic score into the Hillbarn with transcendent clarity. Jane Zaban’s inventive choreography beautifully compliments Lamert’s musical direction with its fluid movements. Later Jebian wowed the sold out audience, singing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain".
Alawi brings a heartfelt honesty to Maria that transforms the character into a truly three-dimensional human being. She feels like both the amazing big sister you never had and the stepmom who says “I’m not like a regular stepmom, I’m a cool stepmom.” The Maria that she has created feels personal to the audience and leaps off of the stage with her all her warmth. Her camaraderie between the children is convincing they are seven loving, mischievous children fighting for attention and always miss their strict father. The glow on their faces on stage is infectious. The young actors' performances are a celebration. The von Trapp children, features Chole Fong (Liesl), Josh Parecki (Friedrich), Sofia Rose (Louisa), Leo Itzovitz (Kurt), Mckenna Rose (Brigitta), Araceli Grace (Marta), and Kaylee Lopez (Gretl). Their performances of “Do-Re-Mi” and “So Long Farewell” are show stoppers.
The terrific Jared Lee as Captain von Trapp has an emotional intensity and his arc will bring a tear to your eyes as he discovers his children's love and talent. The cadence of his speaking voice and the richness of his singing voice filled the theater with a welcomed gravity each time he spoke or sang. His performance of “Edelweiss” along with the children is wonderful. Alongside Alawi the result is pure joy with a charged energy between them. Their intense chemistry can be felt even in the back rows of the Barn. The Nonnberg Abbey Nuns' featuring Dee Baily, Shaneen Black, Sydney Lanae, Brian Weaver, Lauren Biglow, Sheridan Stewart and Samatha Rich are superb singing Gaudeamus Domino and Confitemini Domino.
The eldest child Leisl is played by the charming Chloe Fong and her crush with the teen delivery boy Rolf is played by the impressive Nicki Weppner. They both sing “Sixteen going on Seventeen” and both show their adorable awkward vulnerability at young love. The dapper Brad Satterwhite is Max, and Elsa the Captain's girlfriend is played by the vibrant Stephanie Case. Along with Lee the three sing “How Can Love Survive” and show off their keen voices. Also filling out the cast is local favorite Robert Lopez as Franz the butler, with enthusiastic David Issel, and Adam Weaver.
The open air set designed by Hunter Jameson includes the Abby arches that fill in for the bright windows of the von Trapp home. Props designer Paulino Deleal filled in the lines with couches and elegant dining for the party scene. The back windows of the home and Abby are complemented by Sarina Renteria and Charlie Mejia lighting design. The children sound amazing and fill the barn with Joshua Price’s sound design. Costumes designed by Stephanie Dittbern and Cortney Morgan featured those classic children play clothes made from Maria’s curtains and the adult men all dapper in brown tones. Stage managers Kevin Johnson, Marie Shell and Lex Rosenberg always have the challenge in the Barn as the many entrances included the entire venue space.
The story of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is eternal and brings out the light of joy as the dark ending is in the wings. Dennis Licteig's direction has an authenticity that is supreme in this production with excellent results. That final image of a family on the run, desperately hoping for the promise of a new land, is what gives this “Music” such powerful echoes. Hillbarns team couldn't have imagined that the timing of this play, on the heels of world hostility, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the tension between Israel - Hamas war and the Gaza strip. You wonder what if this timeless masterpiece Sound of Music could bring peace this Holiday Season.
Hillbarn Theatre presents the beloved classic
The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II,
Book by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse
Directed by Dennis Licteig
Music Director Debra Lambert, Choreographer Jane Zaban,
Artistic Director Stephen Muterspaugh
Must close Dec 17, 2023
HILLBARN THEATRE 1285 E. Hillsdale Avenue in Foster City
RUNNING TIME 2HOURS 40 MIN WITH ONE INTERMISSION
SOME TICKETS REMAIN - wait list for sold out performances
Single tickets range from $30 to $62. www.hillbarntheatre.org, by phone at 650.349.6411 Ext. 2, Discounts are available for youth 18 years of age and under, and seniors,
Photos by: Mark Kitaoka
SOUND OF MUSIC TRAILER
SOPHIA ALAWI COMMENTS ON HER ROLE IN S O M
THE CAST OF SOUND OF MUSIC
Jared Lee* as Captain Georg Von Trapp, Sophia Alawi* as Maria Rainer, Sarah Jebian as Mother Abbess / Frau Zeller, Stephanie Case as Elsa and Brad Satterwhite as Max along with Lauren Biglow, Sister Berthe / Frau Schmidt; Brian Weaver, Sister Margaretta; Sydney Lanae, Sister Sophia; Robert Lopez, Franz / Captain Von Trapp u/s; Sheridan Stewart, New Postulant / Liesl u/s; Dee Baily, Nun / Ensemble; Shaneen Black, Nun / Ensemble; Samantha Rich, Nun / Ensemble; Adam Weaver, Ensemble; Dave Issel, Ensemble; Chloe Fong, Liesl; Josh Parecki, Friedrich; Sofia Rose, Louisa; Leo Itzkovitz, Kurt; McKenna Rose, Brigitta; Araceli Herrera, Marta; Kaylee Lopez, Gretl; Nicki Weppner, Rolf; Mia Hangai, Louisa u/s; Gianni Petty, Kurt u/s; Sabrina Watson; Brigitta u/s; Sybil Wyatt, Marta u/s; Stella Wyatt, Gretl u/s. *Actors appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
The creative team includes Hunter Jameson (Scenic Design), Stephanie Dittburn (Costume Design), Joshua Price (Sound Design) Paulino Deleal (Props Design), Sarina Renteria (Lighting Design), Charlie Mejia (Asst. Lighting Designer), Maya Herbsman (Intimacy Coordinator), *Marie Shell (Production Stage Manager).