The hills are alive! 5 reasons to see La Comedia’s ‘Sound of Music’

La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, Ohio. CONTRIBUTED
La Comedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, Ohio. CONTRIBUTED

La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s delightfully heartfelt production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic 1959 musical “The Sound of Music,” the final monumental collaboration of their legendary career, continues through June 13 in Springboro.

Breezily directed/choreographed by Chris Beiser and set in 1938 Austria, this familiar story of postulant Maria Rainer’s journey from reluctant governess to loving wife and mother is a pleasant showcase of cross-generational local talent. In fact, Miamisburg High School, Springboro High School and Stivers School for the Arts are particularly well represented among the younger performers.

Reflecting on a terrific leading lady and a series of vital themes, here are a few of my favorite things from La Comedia’s first large-scale 2021 return.

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ALLIE HAINES MAKES MARIA HER OWN

In recent years, soprano Allie Haines has been a standout in Dare to Defy Productions’ “Annie,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Side Show,” and “Songs for a New World.” Her La Comedia debut, born of her own determinative spunk rather than attempting a Julie Andrews imitation, once again spotlights her fantastic voice and magnetic stage presence, on full display at the outset in her radiant rendition of the title number. Haines also understands Maria is a constant sea of emotions – confident, vulnerable, defiant sincere and conflicted. And through these peaks and valleys, her skillful interpretation truly connects.

(left to right): Von Trapp Children Adilynn Hatton (Gretl), Aubrey Quinn (Marta), Morgan Tracy (Brigitta), Sam Kingrey (Kurt), Addison Haines (Louisa), and Chase Gleeson (Friedrich) with Allie Haines (Maria Rainer) and Chris Kramer (Captain Georg von Trapp) in La Comedia Dinner Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music."
(left to right): Von Trapp Children Adilynn Hatton (Gretl), Aubrey Quinn (Marta), Morgan Tracy (Brigitta), Sam Kingrey (Kurt), Addison Haines (Louisa), and Chase Gleeson (Friedrich) with Allie Haines (Maria Rainer) and Chris Kramer (Captain Georg von Trapp) in La Comedia Dinner Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music."

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

Credit: JUSTIN WALTON

CHARMING VON TRAPP CHILDREN

As in any production of this show, there’s a lot of responsibility riding on the chemistry of the actors chosen to play the buttoned-up children of Captain Georg von Trapp (wonderfully stern Chris Kramer). Have no fear: the charming youngsters assembled here are vocally strong and believably bonded in shared pain and strife as led by vibrant Ashley Ortel (Liesl). With the exception of Ortel, Beiser double-cast the children, but I must commend the “Vienna” troupe seen on opening night: Chase Gleeson (Friedrich), Addison Haines (Louisa), Sam Kingrey (Kurt), Morgan Tracy (Brigitta), Aubrey Quinn (Marta), and Adilynn Hatton (Gretl). Costumer A.T. Jones notably provides their bedroom curtain chic attire in Act One.

A SEDUCTIVE BARONESS ON A MISSION

Long before Maria was instructed to leave the comfort of Nonnberg Abbey, Baroness Elsa Schraeder had her eyes on Georg. Karie-Lee Sutherland’s excellent portrayal reveals Elsa’s seductive tendencies in a manner that doesn’t allow her to be despised or seem treacherous, a tricky balancing act. Elsa didn’t capture Georg’s heart, but Sutherland lets us know it wasn’t from a lack of trying. She also establishes an enjoyable camaraderie with Robert Weidle, who matches her in sophistication as morally flawed Max Detweiler.

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SMILE-INDUCING MUSICAL MOMENTS

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic, smile-inducing numbers are in good hands. Among the highlights: Haines and Linda Dew (a properly pious Mother Abbess) turning a conversation into a sisterhood in “My Favorite Things,” Haines leading a spirited “Do-Re-Mi”; Casen Kidd (providing a solid dramatic arc as Rolf Gruber) partnering with Ortel for a carefree, dance-happy “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”; Haines’ joyful take on “The Lonely Goatherd” impressively performed at a very brisk tempo; the tender poignancy of the title number reprise in Act One fueled by Kramer; Haines and Kramer dancing a lovely “Laendler,” and Kramer’s emotional “Edelweiss” (accented with a beautiful guitar and string accompaniment overseen by music director Lloyd Butler).

LOVE IN THE MIDST OF SORROW

One of the production’s significant strengths rests with Beiser’s grasp that within the story’s feel-good essence is a touching look at a family grieving tremendous loss. The fact that Georg’s loud, intimidating whistle so easily replaced decency, courtesy, respect, and love in his household after his wife’s death speaks to the universal nature of masking sorrow. But it’s never too late for someone to change. As so, we can still learn from this musical’s timeless message of faith, hope and unity centered on the importance of forgiveness and rebuilding relationships.

How to go

What: “The Sound of Music”

Where: La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro

When: Through June 13; Performances are Thursdays-Sundays including matinees

Cost: $35-$76

Tickets: Call 1-800-677-9505 or 937-746-4554 or visit lacomedia.com

FYI: The show is performed in 2 hours and 45 minutes including a 15-minute intermission; Masks are required throughout the building and must be particularly worn during the performance and at the buffet; Temperature checks are taken upon entrance; Hand sanitizing stations are located upon entrance and at the buffet; Show programs are contactless.

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

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