Yes, the ever popular Rodgers and Hammerstein mainstay is back on a local stage, in this case the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre. And even if you’ve seen it a million (give or take) times before, you can probably still find something to enjoy in this production.
Start off, of course, with all those familiar R&H tunes: My Favorite Things, Maria, Climb Every Mountain, the title number, etc. In this production, which takes its cue in part from the famous film version and a 1998 Broadway revival, there’s been a little rearranging of the songs. But they’re all there, including one less often heard, a number called I Have Confidence, sung by the young novice Maria Rainer as she leaves the safety of Nonnberg Abbey to take a position as governess to those lovable—but challenging—Von Trapp children.
In the case of actress Kathryn Parks, who plays Maria, there does indeed seem to be confidence onstage, as she leads the children in Do-Re-Mi, hits the high notes on So Long, Farewell and falls in love with the rigid Captain Von Trapp (William E. Masuck). A newcomer to the Manatee Players stage, Masuck doesn’t exactly move or speak like an Austrian naval captain circa 1938. But on the other hand, he sings well enough, there’s some believable personal pain behind his martinet exterior, and there’s a more convincing than usual awakening to love with his children’s governess. (Too often that relationship is just as stiff as the captain’s spine.)
The children onstage, most of whom alternate with other performers on different nights, are engaging; as Liesl, the Sixteen Going On Seventeen girl, Krissy Pizzo (on opening night) was properly full of youthful curiosity and innocent rebellion. Jeanne Larranaga (who seems to be making quite a career out of playing nuns on the Manatee Players stage; she’s also appeared there in Nunsense and Nunsensations) display a fine voice as Mother Abbess and also has the right air of motherly concern for her troublesome charge, Maria.
The two outsiders to the Von Trapp clan, the more worldly wise Elsa (Shelley Whiteside) and Max (Dan Yonko), seem here mainly to provide some comic diversion, which is an understandable approach. But, perhaps directed so by Robert David May, both performers are too over the top at times. They could still provide a counterpoint to the Von Trapp wholesomeness while holding back somewhat on the big-city, sophisticated mannerisms.
Other than that, director May mostly does a good job of moving along the action quickly and efficiently. There’s faithful music direction by Rebecca Heintz to help, although the set by Kirk V. Hughes doesn’t really evoke the majesty of the Austrian mountain setting or do much to summon up the Von Trapp household.
For many in the audience on opening night, though, it was clear that The Sound of Music is one they want ringing in their ears. The show continues through Oct. 9; call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.