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Starlight Theater lights a star with 'Sound of Music'

Friday evening, July 25, 2014 was opening night of the only locally produced show at Starlight this year, The Sound of Music, a collaboration by the team, Richard Rodgers, composer, and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The show was an opportunity for local talented performers to shine, and shine they did! Director, Philip Wm. McKinley and Anthony Edwards, music director, and the entire production staff and cast did a great job of proving that Kansas City does it better.

An exhibit of "The Sound of Music" costumes
An exhibit of "The Sound of Music" costumes
Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images
The massive stage structure of Starlight awaits the curtain's rising
Floyd E. Gingrich

Now, this was opening night, which frequently serves (as little as possible) as a technical rehearsal with an amphitheater full of people, which sounds different than an amphitheater not full of people. The highest notes of Maria (Analisa Leaming) crashed on "hills,' and "year," of the title song and "be," of the beginning of "Do-Re-Mi." This has probably already been corrected; those crashing episodes were missing in the latter part of the show. Also in the initial "Do-Re-Mi," Maria overpowered all seven von Trapp children. In later ensembles, the sounds were better matched (thank you). A couple of ensembles that started with an up tempo left the singers to catch up, within a couple of beats.

With that off the chest, the nuns' ensemble of "How do you solve a problem like Maria," came off with more (intended) humor than the movie that everyone has seen several times; it was well sung, and the voices were even (an engineering feat).

The Maria-Mother Abbess duet of "My favorite things," was ear candy, and set up a comfortable relationship between the two characters.

Rolf Gruber and Liesl von Trapp (Seth Jones and Claire Charland) delighted the audience as they celebrated innocent young love with "You are sixteen, going on seventeen," and both negotiated the two-note on "I'll take care, and "I'll de-pend" without any hint of scooping.

Maria took a nearly recitative approach to "The lonely goatherd," until she got to the yodels, which were splediferous. The scene sealed the team of Maria with the von Trapp children.

The ensemble of Max, Elsa and the Captain (James Judy, Glory Crampton, Tom Galantich) was even, contrasted voices, and served as an editorial interlude contemplating the eternal question, "How can love survive." The choreographed movements kept the song from becoming boring.

The cute little, So long, farewell," had an instant of sublime pleasure: Cam Burns, as Kurt von Trapp, floated un unforced, pure head tone, "good-bye," into the heavens with the all-knowing arrogance that only a boy soprano can have. In this world of rap music, it was a pleasure to hear a young man who has learned to sing well before his voice changes. If the wrong name is credited, leave a comment below and it will be changed.

"Morning Hymn,' sung nicely by the nuns, provided the needed passage of time for Maria to escape the von Trapp estate and seek refuge in the Abbey. Upon counseling Maria to face her fears, Mother Abbess (Suzanne Ishee) brought the sellout house down with her flawless, powerful, musically intact, rendition of "Climb every mountain." Every seat was empty for a sustained standing ovation.

The falling in love duet between Captain von Trapp and Maria, "Something Good," was sweet and blended, thanks to the sound technicians who matched his voice to hers.

The nuns' singing of Gaudeamus Domino and Confitemini Domino was ecclesiastically appropriate, lovely, and provided musical cover for the tear-jerking wedding scene (tear-jerking for those who always cry at weddings).

"Edelweiss," was dependent upon Captain von Trapp's voice. It filled the space, but somehow was not a convincing love song to a beloved nation in danger of ceasing to exist, but a recital of a folk song.

The Sound of Music at Starlight was a total success. Despite nit-picking fault-finding by perfectionist listeners, considering the lack of dozens of do-overs as in film-making, this performance would be comfortable on any stage in the world. Kansas City has great numbers of talented performance and support personnel.

The program notes made mention of the greater expense of local productions over contracting traveling shows. The time is ripe for little and big angels to step up to fund local productions with their attending personal touch. The reward is not a mention in a program (which is nice) it is knowing that you are a part of building the quality of performing arts in this place we call, Kansas City.