In 1965, Julie Andrews starred in a melodious film about singing children and Nazi invasion. Already a hit on the Broadway stage, the blockbuster movie was my parents’ first date. (Nevermind that they had both seen it several times already, or that my mother, set up on a blind date, thought she was going out with my uncle.) A romance that would span five-plus decades was born.
Now 55 years later, Friday evening on the Clay Center stage, the Charleston Light Opera Guild again brought to life the magical charm of “’The Sound of Music.”
Having seen the traveling Broadway in Charleston production in 2017, I was skeptical it might be too soon for a local troupe to attempt such a monumental piece of musical theater, but how happy I was to have all those doubts allayed.
From the first strains of “The Sound of Music,” local powerhouse Rudi Arrowood swept the audience away on a wave of nostalgia. Beautiful and charming as Maria, it is no wonder everyone from Mother Abbess to the Captain to the Von Trapp children quickly found themselves enchanted by the lovely Arrowood. Her glee was contagious as she swept across the stage, arms flung wide and welcoming.
The beautiful flying sets, that if memory serves were the same ones used by the traveling productions, set the perfect backdrop for what was a nostalgic and memorable evening. The scenes set in the Abbey were especially moving. In perfect harmony, the nuns, postulates and Mother Abbess (Dionne Canterbury) intoned in Latin, then switched to the playful melodies fans remember and love.
But truly, I have never seen anything quite so charming as this ensemble of von Trapp children. All seven were absolutely perfect. Their harmonies rivaled any group of professional child singers, and their chemistry on stage was heartrendingly magical. Songs like “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things” and “So Long, Farewell” were musical theater perfection. I can hardly fathom the hard work that went into making it look and sound so effortless.
The gently sweet duets between Captain von Trapp (Chris Terpening) and Maria, as well as the innocent romance, was a throwback to softer times. Terpenings strong, yet softly rounded, baritone was the perfect cradle for not only the duets, but especially the family numbers like “Edelweiss.”
The entire cast was amazing and the production flawless. Elsa Schraeder (Erika Hogge) and Max Detweiller (Jamison Miller) provide the exact amount of necessary comedy to prevent drowning the production in a saccharine sentimentality.
I took my mother as my date to Friday night’s show, as my father’s physical ailments no longer allow him to sit through almost three hours of a production. As I watched the show, I could hear the gentle strains of my mother softly humming the songs that are such an intrinsic part of our family lore. As I glanced around the audience, I saw many a gray head resting on the stooped shoulder beside it, a few sparkling tears graced the lid of my seatmate’s eye and many hands were held in the dim recesses of the auditorium.
It was a pleasure to share these memories and make new ones in a room full of friends and strangers.
“The Sound of Music” continues at the Clay Center throughout the month of January, with a 7:30 p.m. show Jan. 25 and 2 p.m. matinees Jan. 19, 25 and 26. Tickets are $25 and $30 and can be purchased by calling 304-561-3570 or online at theclaycenter.org.