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STAGE REVIEW: ‘Sound of Music’ uplifts, delights

March 4, 2009
By SKY BARNHART, For The Maui News

"Climb ev'ry mountain,

Ford ev'ry stream,

Follow ev'ry rainbow

Till you find your dream."

The words were written more than 50 years ago by Oscar Hammerstein II, but they're still a compelling whisper of inspiration, especially now in these challenging times.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" opened at the sparkling Iao Theater last weekend and will continue its run through March 22. Director Alexis Dascoulias calls the musical a story of "hope and goodness . . . love and perseverance . . . family togetherness and determination." The Maui OnStage production is all these things and more.

Fact Box

* "Sound of Music" shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through March 22 at the Iao Theater. Students 18 and younger can get in for $10 with a donation of two canned food items to the Maui Food Bank. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for Sunday matinees; available at If the Shoe Fits, 21 N. Market St., and online at

The lovely Leighanna Edwards is Maria to a T ("a drink with jam and bread . . . "). Her natural exuberance and superb voice carry the play over any less-than-smooth patches - and there aren't many.

Edwards is matched in enthusiasm by the von Trapp children: Noelani Neal as Liesl, Viva Whittman as Louisa, Clyde Engle as Friedrich, Zeb Mehring as Kurt, Hannah Patrick as Brigitta, Kirsten Paulson as Marta, and Marley Mehring as Gretl. The children are fetching throughout in meticulous costumes by Sarah Loney.

The hilarious first encounter between Maria and Captain von Trapp (Steven Michaels) calls to mind "The King and I," thanks to Michaels' commanding presence. As the Captain shrills his bosun's whistle, the children march in and sound off their names and ages, swinging their arms high in matching navy and red-trimmed sailor suits.

Neal as 16-year-old Leisl is quick to remind Maria that "I don't need a governess!" Paired with Miles Kelsey who plays messenger boy Rolf Gruber, the two bring a fresh, innocent quality to the gazebo classic, "Sixteen Going On Seventeen."

Michaels reunites with Lisa Paulson (Anna in "The King and I"), who now plays the Captain's love interest, Baroness Elsa Schraeder.

Elsa and Uncle Max (a jovial Eric J. Molina) enjoy richer roles in the stage version, singing two glib songs - "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It" - that were left out of the Julie Andrews/Christopher Plummer film version.

Always a highlight in any version, "So Long, Farewell" is especially charming here. The adults in evening dress look on with benevolent smiles as the children pop out to say "cuckoo!", little Gretl with blond braids swinging. As Freidrich, Engle hits the high note that even Duane Chase in the movie version couldn't achieve.

A few little surprises in the staging keep the play fresh, even at two and a half hours in length. The dramatic second half flies by, the "Heil!"s and swastikas adding some shock factor as the Nazis take over Austria.

A major boost to the play comes in the form of a live orchestra, added at the last minute thanks to generous sponsors. Robert E. Wills directs the team of Marti Kluth (pianist/rehearsal accompanist), Roland Nono, July Patao, Michelle Romero Ancheta, Silvina Samuel, Perry Gragas, Anne Durham and Alicia Tanouye. They sound excellent, even with a few moments where the music threatens to overwhelm the singers' voices.

Clanging church bells call the sisters to prayer at Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria tries her best to be a nun. The soaring Latin hymns of the gracious nuns (Laura Bloom Farber, Amy Kamikawa, Kristi Scott, Rebecca Narrowe, Kendall Benoit, Karen Campbell, Sandra Higman, L. Gracie Clark, Cheyanna Simmons, Zena Kreider and Arielle Lehua Simon; with Joyce Romero as the firm but loving Mother Abbess) are a treat for the ears.

Creative lighting throughout by Bonnie Pruka and Nicholas Vachy enhance Caro Walker's versatile two-level set. Sound design is by Dawn Kealoha Harper, and choreography by Alexander Cardinalli.

It may be 50 years old, but "The Sound of Music" has lost none of its value. Even those who know the play by heart will find something new to love in the MOS production of this grande dame of musicals. At the very least, you'll be newly inspired to follow your dreams - and that alone is worth the price of admission.



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