76.5 F
The Villages
Monday, July 22, 2024

‘Sound of Music’ at Savannah Center wins standing ovations

It took nearly three years to bring “The Sound of Music” to The Villages, but it was worth the wait.

Producer Susan Feinberg of Smash Productions began work on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic here in March, 2020. Then came Covid and a myriad of other problems.
Finally, after auditioning over 120 people and months of rehearsals, “The Sound of Music” opened in a packed Savannah Center Tuesday night. It was a rousing success with stellar performances that earned standing ovations. It runs through Thursday, Nov. 10.

Pinky Bigley left and Bonnie Williams share a moment in song
Pinky Bigley, left, and Bonnie Williams share a moment in song.
Pinky Bigley as Maria takes care of the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music
Pinky Bigley as Maria takes care of the von Trapp children.

Pinky Bigley provides some spunky, zestful spice to the role of Maria. She captured her spiritual and emotional journey from a wavering Catholic novice to a loving wife and mother.  And she won’t back down – even to the Nazis.
Her musical highlights include singing and romping with the seven von Trapp children on “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely Goatherd.” Bigley starts the show off on a high note with a stirring version of the title song.

Tim Casey Lee Mueller and Kathy Chesley Williams sing together
Tim Casey, Lee Mueller and Kathy Chesley Williams sing together.
Pinky Bigley as Maria and Lee Mueller as the Captain in a tender embrace from The Sound of Music
Pinky Bigley as Maria and Lee Mueller as the Captain in a tender embrace.

Lee Mueller — as the steadfast disciplinarian Captain Georg von Trapp — was impressive in a much less demonstrative role. Initially, he is a widower who is cold and aloof to his seven children.
Mueller’s operatic vocals, calm personality and handsome features embrace the essence of the character. Eventually, Maria, with help from the kids, pierces the Captain’s icy veneer to find a warm heart. Mueller’s transformation is almost as much fun to watch as Maria’s.
He shows his romantic side in a duet with Maria, “Something Good.” Then Mueller delivers one of the musical’s best-loved songs, “Edelweiss,” with power.

Camila Santana captures the audience as Gretl in the arms of her father played by Lee Mueller
Camila Santana captures the audience as Gretl in the arms of her father played by Lee Mueller.

The Captain refuses an offer to serve with the German navy, and, eventually, with help from Maria and the Nuns, leads his family to the mountains to escape the Nazis.

Next come the scene stealers.
And they are abundant in this production, especially the kids.

But we’ll start with the grown-ups, who happen to be Villagers.

Bonnie Williams plays Mother Abbess, head of the Abbey where the nuns live. She is the guiding force in Maria’s life, and when she sings “Climb Every Mountain,” it is the defining moment of this musical.
The song sets the stage for Maria’s quest to find her real meaning and role in life. And it touches the audience in an almost spiritual way. Williams doesn’t just sell this song, she empowers it.

Williams offers a wide range of emotions. She can be frisky and fun-loving, as she is when singing with Maria on “My Favorite Things.”   

Tim Casey adds a comic punch to the role of Max, a friend of the von Trapps, on the lookout for musical talent.
Casey speaks with a thick Austrian accent and has a way of making the scenes click. The same could be said for Kathy Chesley-Williams, who plays Elsa, Captain von Trapp’s love interest until Maria arrives.
Chesley-Williams offers a catty, sophisticated take as Maria’s rival. Eventually, she leaves the kids and the Captain, more interested in money than a family.

Next come the young-uns.
We start with Emily Veri, who plays 16-year old Liesl von Trapp. Shea Yael is her 17-year old boyfriend Rolf. Both are from The Villages Charter School and they shine in this production.
Veri, with ballerina grace and a soft voice, complements Yael’s smooth dancing and flirtatious demeanor in a delightful, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”

 Camila Santana, 6, may be the biggest scene stealer of the bunch. She plays Gretl, the youngest von Trapp, and you just can’t keep your eyes off her when she’s on stage, especially when she sings the closing to “So Long, Farewell.”

The rest of the von Trapps are: Ian Wolgamott as Friedrich; Natalie Wolgamott as Louisa; Ethan Adams-Rae as Kurt; Deslyn Furce as Brigitta and Sofia Sallee as Marta.

Also playing important roles are the Nuns from the Abbey. They provided an inspirational musical backdrop during the wedding scene in Act II. They include Holly Jeske, Sherry Mistler, and Marilyn Duncan.

“The Sound of Music” is directed by Bob Stehman. Musical director Mary Ann Rockenbach leads a six-piece, live band. Barbara Byers is the choreographer. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Villages Shrine Club.
“I was in this musical when I was in high school and it’s still great,” said Emmett Mills, 76, a past president of the Shriners who attended the show with his wife Gayle. “The music is so good, and you never get tired of hearing and seeing the story of the von Trapps,” he added.

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

Villagers think they can exclude local fishermen

In a Letter to the Editor, a longtime local responds to a recent news story about Villagers unhappy about “outsiders” fishing in ponds in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.

Here’s our experience with 80-20 law in The Villages

A former resident of The Villages, in a Letter to the Editor, describes his experience with the 80-20 law.

The Democrats are the ones who have called for violence

A Village of Glenbrook resident contends it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who have been calling for violence.

Linda Hallinan vows to continue to speak the truth in spite of critics

A Village of Lynnhaven resident, in a Letter to the Editor, vows to continue to speak the truth in spite of her critics.

Press has an important role to inform the public

A Village of Belle Aire resident contends that the press has an important role to inform the public. Read his Letter to the Editor.