Story by Zach Avery, Editor-in-Chief
Photos courtesy of Zach Avery
This past weekend were the opening performances of Civic Theatre’s new rendition of a well-worn classic: The Sound of Music. Not only has this show been produced at Civic Theatre several times before, but it’s even premiered in Grand Rapids already this year, this time at Shadblow Theatre. So, how does Civic Theatre follow up the younger theatre’s first foray into this particular show?
The Civic’s latest version does paint some keystrokes that triumphantly stand out from any other production of The Sound of Music in town. The performance hall’s iconic proscenium stage is gorgeous in-person, and at the show’s titular song (“The Sound of Music”, sung by Alyssa Bauer as Maria Rainer), the auditorium lends itself an enchanting atmosphere that is perfectly combined with a spectacularly designed mountaintop set piece. By peering into this world from a wide, set point of view, the rotating set illustrates the rest of its world effortlessly. This scene alone set a high expectation for the remainder of the show. If a single song could impeccably fit its environment, then the rest of the performance would hopefully do so as well.
Unfortunately, what made that first performance by Maria so magical (the proscenium stage and set design) seemed detrimental to the suspension of disbelief for many other moments of the show. Claustrophobic character blocking in dialogue scenes at both the abbey and the Von Trapps’ outdoor patio cut off a line of sight for large swaths of the audience. Without seeing the actor’s facial expressions, intimate moments between characters like Maria and the Reverend Mother felt lost.
On the other hand, memorable moments, such as the party scene where the Von Trapps sing their “So long, farewell”, felt lively and genuine. The dance choreography was sophisticated, and any scene with the Von Trapp children is full of charm. A larger ensemble of actors in certain scenes also increased the immersion of the setting, like impacting the party scene by making it really feel like there is a party going on.
Despite some obtrusive blocking, the Civic Theatre’s Sound of Music carries on the legacy of the show quite well. For any Grand Rapidian eager to experience the true-life story of Maria Rainer and the Von Trapp family fleeing from Nazi-invaded Austria, then this production will surely scratch the itch. Afterall, the music is unlike anything else ever composed. It’s enough to come just for the Act 1 finale, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Performances of The Sound of Music will continue every weekend until December 19 at Civic Theatre.