Old favorite ‘The Sound of Music’ is fresh in Academy voices

ORLEANS – The Academy of Performing Arts is taking “The Sound of Music” out of the proverbial park.

Three dozen actors of all ages make almost three entertaining hours of cheerful and always-on-the-key music together. From the first notes the nuns sing to the final ensemble piece, this is a feel-good, smile-inducing return to a musical story that has become a beloved part of our social psyche. Beyond the urge to sing along, there is the underlying fear and anxiety of recognizing the moment when the von Trapp family must decide to flee or stay that makes “The Sound of Music” so relatable.

Music through Richard Rodgers; text by Oscar Hammerstein II; book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse

What matters: A governess falls in love with the children she cares for, and then with their father, who also falls in love with her. Together the family forms a singing group and they use this talent to escape Nazism when it tries to claim them.

In the context of history, a family that loves their country is threatened with bodily harm if they do not comply with a repressive regime that changes their world as they know it. Although the setting seems like a long time ago, the threat they face is real and still present – ​​and history repeats itself when ignored. Iconic stories like these contain uncomfortable truths, but fortunately we can notice this for a few hours on a summer evening and then let it go, basking in the familiar and comforting music that defines ‘The Sound of Music’.

See it or not: When “The Sound of Music” plays out at every performance like it did on opening night, this is not to be missed. For anyone who grew up with the well-known songs from this iconic production – ‘Do Re Mi’, ‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Edelweiss’ – the Academy’s rendition is nothing short of spectacular. This is community theater at its best!

Highlight of the show: Director Sue Lindholm has put together a great cast that not only acts well, but also sings excellently. Frankly, I was amazed at the singing quality that didn’t succumb to a flat tone or choppy voice. The voices suit the characters and there are no unexpected surprises in the casting. The costumes by Judy Hamer and Sam Roderick are impressive, as is the versatile set designed and built by Mark Roderick, Nick Dorr and Emma Engelsen. To top it all off, the three-piece musical ensemble led by music director Chris Morris plays at a volume that never overwhelms the singers.

The entire production from top to bottom is a treat! My normally reserved mother-in-law exclaimed at the end of the show, “That was amazing!” Best show I’ve ever seen!”

Fun fact: The original Broadway production starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel in 1959 was the last collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein (Hammerstein died in 1960), winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 1965, the film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. RCA Victor’s 1965 film soundtrack is one of the most successful soundtrack albums in history.

Worth nothing: Jennifer Almeida is a sweet and ideal Maria whose clear, non-vibrato soprano is as comforting as it is beautiful. Every time she was backstage, I looked for her and wanted her to walk through a door and float back onto the stage, like the cool mountain breeze her character loves so much. Mother Abbess, played by Kimberly Matthews, has the best lines, like “You gotta find the life you were born for,” and as if this insightful commentary isn’t enough in itself, Matthews belts out “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” with infectious exuberance . There are high soprano notes that the audience anticipates – because they know the music – and Matthews delivers every time.

One more thing: It is an extra challenge for actors and singers if the audience knows exactly what is going to happen and what each song should sound like. This cast comes together at any time. There are no dull passages in “The Sound of Music”, no shortage of great moments and every cast and crew member can feel genuinely good about their part in making this such a successful production.

If you go: Thursday to Saturday 7 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. until June 16. The Academy of Performing Arts, 120 Main St., Orleans; $25 – $35. [email protected] or 508-255-1963.