From the moment the opening chords of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” strike up from the pit of The Gateway audiences are sure to be hit with a wave of nostalgia. Whether the film was a sentimental part of your childhood or not, the story and the music transport you back to the Golden Age of musical theatre. With stellar casting and top-notch production value, The Gateway’s production is perhaps the closest you will get to Broadway on Long Island.
Brandi Burkhardt (television’s “Heart of Dixie, Broadway’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” ”Mamma Mia”) perfectly embodies the spirit of the beloved role of Maria Rainer. She makes the role her own while also keeping up with the pace set by Mary Martin and Julie Andrews, who originated the role on Broadway and on film, respectively. It only takes a few moments on stage for her to establish her strength as a gorgeous soprano and entrancing actress. It is apparent she gives a lot as a scene partner, bonding with everyone from The Mother Abbess (Tracy Bidleman) in a lovely rendition of “My Favorite Things” to the Von Trapp children in the crowd pleasing “Do Re Mi” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”
Speaking of the children, The Gateway assembled a terrific group of young actors to portray the Von Trapps. Longtime Gateway student Erin Grace Kelly delights as the eldest, Liesel, and holds her own in her scenes with Ms. Burkhardt and her duet, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” with the charismatic Nick Ziobro as Rolf. The remaining six children were double cast. Albert Jack Peterson and Brendyn J. Molnar of the Blue Company shine as Friedrich and Kurt, the two Von Trapp boys. Meanwhile, each Von Trapp girl – Keira Ballan as Louisa, Allie Dematteo as Brigitta, Brynne Ballan as Marta, Clara Swinkin as Gretl – carves out a distinct personality.
Ryan K. Bailer (Les Miserables, Evita National Tours) gives patriarch Captain Georg von Trapp the right balance of strict restraint and eventual sentimentality. The chemistry between he and Ms. Burkhardt is palpable – portraying a believable evolution of romance. His charms are also evident in his later moments with the children as Maria helps the Captain break through his harsh exterior to embrace his fatherly sensitivities. His rendition of “Edelweiss” is tear inducing.
Tom Souhrada (“Mary Poppins,” “Kinky Boots”) provides a wonderful foil to the conventional Captain as the eccentric Max Detweiler, a family friend and eventual music agent to the Von Trapps. Along with Jenny Hill (Broadway’s “Seussical,” “Spamalot”) as Baroness Elsa Schraeder, the Captain’s would-be fiance, he entertains in “How Can Love Survive?” – although not featured in the film, a thoroughly entertaining exploration of romance. Ms. Hill stands out as the Baroness between her comedic moments and more serious scenes concerning the plot of Nazi sympathizing. Additionally, Joe Greene’s gorgeous costume design is on full display with her radiant gowns.
The production also features a strong ensemble. The nuns wonderfully execute the classic “Maria” with perfect comedic timing and lovely vocals. Ms. Bidleman leads them with ease and ends Act I with a show-stopping rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Meanwhile, the male ensemble is perfectly menacing as the Nazis who occupy Austria.
As expected with a Gateway production, the scenic design by Brittany Loesch and crew is spectacular – from the vined exterior of the Von Trapp mansion to the finale’s mountain landscape. Marcia Madeira’s lighting and company’s lighting design and Ryan Chapman’s sound work elevate the experience.
Running for only one more weekend, I would implore musical theatre lovers to purchase their tickets to “The Sound of Music” before it’s too late. This is not a production to miss!
Photos courtesy of The Gateway