The main stage of the Labuda Center for the Arts, DeSales University, vibrates with the sound of talent.
Among the student lead actors in the DeSales Act 1 production of “The Sound of Music,” one vocal talent is better than the other.
DeSales is known for his strong Broadway-bound actors. “The Sound of Music” will be considered for several small group performances.
“The Sound of Music” continues through May 8. The April 29 performance was seen for this review.
The key casting choice in “The Sound of Music” is, of course, Maria Rainer, the nun who oscillates between love of God and a nun’s devotion to single life and love for a man and the devotion to maternal instincts. It’s a really beautiful concept and Abigail Vernon is wonderful as Maria. She is not the Julie Andrews type, with short blonde hair, but rather long black hair. It’s not a detail because Andrews is so closely identified with the role in the film adaptation (1965).
Vernon has a certain freedom in the role precisely because she does not look like Andrews. Vernon creates dizzying childlike excitement when she takes on the von Trapp children as a teacher, voice coach, and seamstress (Oh, those matching draperies.). Vernon works so well in the role because she doesn’t seem much older than the kids. Plus, Vernon brings that joie de vivre to well-known songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from the musical, including the title track, which Vernon gives flight to with innocence and exuberance.
Just when you think no one can top Vernon comes the song “My Favorite Things,” a duet with Sydney Abbott (The Mother Abbess), who has a wonderfully enveloping voice. Vernon is also splendid in “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely Goatherd”, singing with The Children (Emily Tazza, Tim Sees Jr., Samantha Stec, Harrison Bostian, Gabby Snyder, Mia Moyer, Abigail Dodd).
The children are excellent. Most are child actors, playing characters around their own age. Some are DeSales students, including Emily Tazza (Leisl von Trapp), who manifests a much younger self, while projecting a bold voice in “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” a duet with Rolf (Derek Elliott Jr., also in beautiful voice).
The closest Act I is the “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” show and make no mistake, Sydney Abbott (Mother Abbess), singing with the nuns, would stop the show even if the song wasn’t right before the show. ‘intermission. Abbott’s voice is simply breathtaking.
Abbott directs Sister Margaretta, Mistress of Postulants (Megan Castellane) and Sister Berthe, Mistress of Novices (Josie LaTorres) in a rendition of “Maria” that is an utter delight.
Let’s not forget, William Pearce (Captain Georg von Trapp) is surprisingly good, nothing more than in “How Can Love Survive”, with Elsa (Brielle Lewandowski) and Max (Giovanni Marini), and the cover of the title track with Abigail Vernon (Maria) and The Children. Pearce is also superb, again powerfully but also tenderly, in “Edelweiss” with Vernon and The Children.
All of these songs are wrapped in the formidable score performed by a 13-piece orchestra skillfully led by musical director Vincent Trovato.
Director John Bell moves the story forward with speed and efficiency, assisted by choreographer Christine Baglivio, with a keen understanding of the story stakes at hand, which steadily escalate in Act II until may the inevitable happen and may the mountain, once so inspiring, become a challenge to overcome.
The production is excellent throughout, from scenic designer Will Neuert’s versatile set, to lighting designer Eric T. Haugen’s evocative stained glass effects, to costume designer Sam Flemming’s thematically detailed outfit. .
I’m almost at a loss for superlatives except to say that if you can still get a ticket, make that reservation now for “The Sound of Music” at DeSales University’s Act I. It will long be remembered as one of the best college productions of all time. featured in the Lehigh Valley.
“The Sound of Music,” 8:4-5-6-7 and 2:7-7, May 8, Main Stage, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, DeSales University, 2755 Station Avenue, Center Valley. Tickets: www.tickets.desales.edu; 610-282-3192
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JACK LERCH Left to right: Abigail Vernon (Maria) with three of Von Trapp’s children, played by Tim Sees Jr. (Friedrich), Samantha Stec (Louisa) and Gabby Snyder (Brigitta), “The Sound of Music “, DeSales University Act 1.