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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

'Sound of Music' revival hits right notes

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Theater Critic

 •  'The Sound of Music'

8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 22; also extended 8 p.m. Dec. 27-28, 4 p.m. Dec. 29

Diamond Head Theatre

$10-$40; 733-0274

Stage musicals don't come more popular than Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music."

The uplifting story of the postulant nun who wins the hearts of seven orphans and their rigid father, then helps them escape from Nazi-occupied Austria has been winning audience hearts for years. Its emotional ingredients have become almost cliché — singing nuns, menacing storm troopers, and all those charming children.

But "The Sound of Music" raised the bar for popular audience appeal and, with music that is both playful and inspirational, it deserves that success. It lacks a really good love song, but with its strong emphasis on duty and accountability, it's not a typical romance.

Greg Zane directs and choreographs the current revival at Diamond Head Theatre, where it enjoys rich vocal and visual treatment. Singing, sets, and costumes are all first rate.

The production benefits from a fine cast.

Carla Waterfield as Maria sings well and sets the right tone as the earnest but conflicted would-be nun. She sells the title song, which is an initial big demand, then relaxes into the fun numbers with the children. Bob Frederick as the Captain can carry the tune on "Edelweiss," adding the correctly soft inner core to a role that is cast primarily for type.

Teresa Bomberger as The Mother Abbess carries the vocal "big gun" that powers "Climb Every Mountain," which closes Act One and is reprised in the finale.

Then there are the seven — count 'em, seven — children that contribute the real life to the show: Katherine Mills (who also duets with Jimi Wheeler as Rolf on "Sixteen Going On Seventeen"), Sam Roeca, Keely Schneider, Jack Smart, Kim Anderson, Katherine Clifton, and Madeline Suong-Thuy Sault. These kids are correctly more spunky than saccharine and provide real energy.

John Hunt is delightful as the scheming houseguest Max Detweiler and Valerie Vedder is threatening, but not evil, as Elsa Schraeder.

The sound system got off to a rocky start on opening night with excessive reverberation that suggested the recesses of outer space rather than a small stone abbey. Similarly, Maria and the nuns were all a bit too tightly wound in their opening scenes. Zane, or possibly musical director Emmett Yoshioka, has them exaggerating word endings and hitting their stage positions much too deliberately.

Generally, precision and self-possession are the welcome hallmarks of a professional production, but when they draw focus away from the character, it's an indication of over-control or opening-night jitters.

There will be ample opportunity for the cast to relax into this production, as it has already been twice extended to meet ticket demand.