There are a number of reasons that Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music is still so popular today. The songs are definitely catchy and familiar, and the story is compelling. But, it takes a good cast and solid direction to make it work properly, and the troupe that Stages St. Louis has corralled are excellent in their roles. This venerable warhorse of a show is their current production, and its charm still holds up remarkably well after all these years.
Maria Ranier doesn't fit in at the Nonnberg Abbey. She just exhibits too much of a passion for living to ever conform to the strict codes that it presents. So, she's sent away to be the Trapp family governess. While she's able to win the many children of this large clan immediately with her playful enthusiasm and lovely singing, she's not able to win the heart of their father, Captain Georg von Trapp. Those he's already engaged, she finds herself falling hard for the stalwart Georg. She initially returns to the abbey, but she eventually returns and love blossoms between the pair. However, the family must deal with the encroaching Nazi occupation of their beloved Austria, which seeks to enlist the former Austrian Captain into their own Navy.
Casey Erin Clark is splendid as Maria, not only possessing the right vocal quality for the character, but also the pleasing demeanor one has come to expect from the role. She does wonderful work on the title tune, as well as “Do Re Mi” and “My Favorite Things”. David Schmittou is a nice match as the family patriarch, and even though the script (book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse) never develops his character fully, you root for him to hook up with Maria, rather than his on-again off-again fiancee Elsa Schraeder, who's nicely essayed by Kari Ely. The children are all cute and talented, and include: Heidi Giberson, Mathew Howard, Braden Phillips, Julia Schweizer, Morgan McDonald, Grace Clark, Phoebe Desilets. Giberson is particularly strong as Liesl, and does fine work on her number, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”.
The supporting cast is huge and features a number of familiar faces like: John Flack, Ellen Isom, Zoe Vonder Haar, Whit Reichert, Debby Lennon, Steve Isom, Larry Mabrey, Shaun Sheley, Pamela Reckamp, Laura Ernst, Laurie McConnell, Justin Ivan Brown, and many others too numerous to mention.
Michael Hamilton's direction is terrific, as always, and he's aided by the choreography of Dana Lewis and the music direction of Lisa Campbell Albert. Mark Halpin's scenic design is well done, and Lou Bird's costumes are spot on. The lighting design of Matthew McCarthy complements the action, while Stuart Elmore's orchestral design comes off admirably.
Stages St. Louis has put together a marvelously rendered production of The Sound of Music, and even if you've seen it many times before, you'll find plenty to enjoy. This presentation continues through August 19, 2012.