The Sound of Music
The Hillside comes alive with a joyful production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic
Reviewed by Jillian Owens, Fri., July 20, 2012
Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater, 2301 Barton Springs Rd., 479-9491
Through Aug. 11
Running Time: 2 hr., 30 min.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that just as it was God's will for Maria to marry Captain Von Trapp, it is definitely God's will for me to implore you to go see The Sound of Music at Zilker Park as soon as possible. Seriously. This is the best musical production I have seen in Austin since Wicked – and that was a Broadway Across America touring show.
We're all familiar with the 1965 Julie Andrews film, and most of us (with the sad exception of my father) cherish childhood memories of "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" sing-alongs. But even if you don't like musicals (what kind of person are you?!) and have an abnormal lack of nostalgia for those seven sweet siblings bidding you "So Long, Farewell," I guarantee that this utterly delightful production will at least make you crack a smile, or perhaps even shed a tear when dear Rolf (the devastatingly handsome Jordan Barron) turns to the dark side.
I must admit that my eyes moistened as soon as Maria meandered onstage. Juilliard graduate and Austin Lyric Opera veteran Michelle Haché embodies the beloved governess to perfection, with vocals that will give you goose bumps for days. Haché's performance truly brought the Sheffield Theater's jam-packed hill to life; on opening night, the rapt multigenerational audience adored every magical moment. We fell silent as some dozen nuns sang adulations in spectacular harmony and cheered as the "Lonely Goatherd" fouettéyed center stage. We cooed when the children entered in their matching curtain outfits (just one example of Susan Branch Towne's triumphant costumes), and we melted as the Captain (the immaculate Joshua Denning) sang the heartbreaking "Edelweiss," flanked by Nazi soldiers and looming red mountains. We even sympathized (a little bit) with Frau Schraeder (Leslie Hollingsworth) and Uncle Max (Neal Gibson), thanks to their solid vocals and two dashing songs that were cut from the film.
Just as the Captain would have it, this production was shipshape from stem to stern. A well-oiled running crew brought Paul Davis' elegant set pieces gliding on and off, accompanied by John Vander Gheynst's equally tight orchestra. Jason Amato, assisted by Patrick W. Anthony, has done it again with his lighting design, and sound designer Bill Mester and sound engineer Sam Kokajko expertly manipulated the tough acoustics of the outdoor space. Underneath it all, M. Scott Tatum's deft direction and Courtney Wissinger's sugary sweet choreography brought everything together in a fragrant bouquet of pure joy. Ok, now I'm really gushing. But I'm on a mission. Pack the cooler and hop in the car; elation awaits you on the Zilker hillside.