Was there Sound? Was there Music?
The Sound of Music
Blue Springs City Theatre
I attended BSCT's 'Sound of Music' on Friday evening. This is one of my all-time favorite shows, and I was really looking forward to the familiar story and the wonderful music. Unfortunately, I was shocked at the number of times "amateur" bordered on absurd.
Most of the show's problems seem to point back to poor direction, or lack of direction. Overall, the show is woefully under-rehearsed. Many times, I felt like I was sitting in on a rehearsal a week or two before opening. Forgotten lines, muffed lyrics, stilted blocking, painfully long set changes done in full light, lights going to black in the middle of a scene - there's just no excuse for a lot of this except poor direction and lack of preparation.
The first impression of the show is the overture, which we got to hear twice for some strange reason, after a frantic run by the director from the light board down to the pit. At this time, it became very apparent that "amateur" begins with the pit. I do want to point out that there are a few exceptional players in the pit - I noticed the fine playing of the oboe, the flute, the piano, the percussion, and the bass. But, those 5 couldn't cover up the horrible intonation problems and lack of rhythm from the remainder of the players. Being a musician myself, I know that it is really difficult to get really good musicians to volunteer their time for community theater, but this was by far the worst pit I've ever heard at BSCT. String players in particular: for God's sake! At least ATTEMPT to play in the key the music is in! If they weren't in the key of C (and even sometimes then), it was painful to listen to.
Next we had the opening scene with the Mother Abbess and the three nuns, discussing Maria. While the Mother Abbess does a fine job with her dialogue, and is pretty convincing as the character, her singing is weak. Many times she was very noticeably off-key, missed entrances, or forgot lyrics, which totally overshadowed her otherwise strong acting performance.
I was refreshed by the beautiful voice of Sister Sophia, who really shone in 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?'
One of the highlights of the show was Maria herself - she did a wonderful job! She brought just the right amount of innocent ingénue and happy-go-lucky to the part, and her voice was beautiful and spot-on! Awesome job! Her extraordinary performance made the show bearable.
The VonTrapp children, overall, did a really fine job. It's hard to get a stellar performance from young kids in community theater many times, and all of them did very well. Gretl, in particular, really stole the show on a number of occasions, and Leisl really shone in 'I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen'. I really didn't see any of the unpredictability that younger kids often bring to a show, such as forgotten lines and ensuing pregnant dead space, missed entrances, etc. Bravo to all of them, and their parents!
By this point in the show, I was distracted by wondering why not one single performer onstage was wearing a body mic. I felt this was another directing gaffe - if you're going to eschew the body mics, then EVERY person onstage has to project, project, project! I was sitting toward the back of the center section (but in front of the big aisle that comes in from the door), and there was a huge amount of lost dialogue because I couldn't understand what was being said, and more often than not, the orchestra drowned out the singing. Why no body mics? Or, at least, why were the overhead mics so high up so that they didn't pick things up very well? Another neon "AMATEUR" sign, in my opinion.
Two other strong performers in this show were Frau Schrader and Max Dettweiler. Both of these folks were strong singers, great actors, and really made the characters come alive in a believable way. Bravo to both of them!
In fact, I was so taken with Max that I had to wonder what possessed the director to pass him over as Captain VonTrapp. The gentleman playing the Captain looked the part of a handsome, smart Navy man, but that's where it ended. I was really disappointed with his woodenness, botched/forgotten lines, and barely passable singing. At no time was I convinced that he was a stern, bitter curmudgeon, or that he was turned by love into a tender family man. Most of the time, he looked uncomfortable and like he was frantically fishing for the next thing he was supposed to say. Why was such an overall weak choice cast in such a primary role?
Another character I really enjoyed was Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper. She was believable, funny, and a real joy to watch. Same goes for Franz, the butler, who also gave a good performance.
The nail in the 'amateur' coffin, for me, was the set changes and lighting. I have to wonder if the backstage crew and lighting crew ever attended a rehearsal. At one point, the lights went to black in the middle of a scene, and we got to listen to Maria and Frau Schrader finish the scene in pitch black. Then, the lights came back up so we could watch the crew change the set in full light - wearing an unbelievably tacky concoction of gray shorts, red t-shirts, orange t-shirts, blue jeans, white shoes, stuff with logos - something I might expect to see at a skateboard park. News flash, since the director didn't bother to tell you this - if you work backstage, WEAR BLACK! ALL BLACK! Head to toe! I was appalled. The set changes were slow, cumbersome, and many times were done in dead silence with the lights on. And what was with the wedding scene, where we see all the nuns onstage, singing, in full light, then surprise! Here comes the set crew with their tacky non-set-!
crew attire, to move set pieces off the stage in the middle of the scene. Unbelievable.
Speaking of weddings brings me to costumes, which were really nice! There were a few details that someone probably should have noticed, such as the admiral's braid hanging probably twice as long as it should be, or the fact that no one in the 1930's Austria would have even thought of wearing a skirt as short as Leisl's was. But overall, the costumes were well done, very appropriate for the period, and looked very authentic. Kudos to the costume crew!
With the slow set changes and slow-paced dialogue, this ended up being a 3 hour and 15 minute show. WAY too long, especially for as bad as it is. Overall, a few fine performances totally overshadowed by lack of direction and preparation. Unless you have a family member in the show, your $8.00 is probably better spent somewhere else.
read the review at KC Stage