(photos by Jon Blea)
Written by Alina Mae Wilson
I recently attended the Sound of Music in Fullerton. The Muckenthaler Cultural Center put on a noteworthy performance of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with a serious attempt at creating an immersive experience. While environmental limitations prevented true envelopment from occurring, the clear effort at transitioning us to Salzburg pre-German annexation is as endearing as it is creative. I might not recommend this to families with squirrely children, but theater fans with a bit more patience should give it a shot.
The Sound of Music is about a young woman named Maria. Maria has aspirations to be a nun, but by her free-spirited nature and nearly constantly uplifted voice, has trouble abiding by the structured rules of the convent. It is suggested that she take a break from her training to serve as a governess to a nearby navy Captain’s seven children. The Captain is overly strict with his family, the children are unhappy, and political disagreements influence the lives of Captain Von Trapp and his family as Germany prepares to take over Austria. Maria’s enthusiasm, love, and song might just be what the family needs to heal and escape the incoming oppression.
This show scored highly because most cumulative components of the show were excellent. The Muckenthaler Cultural Center has a stage, but for the most part, it wasn’t used–the house itself was the stage. The audience’s location often changed from scene to scene, nuns ushering us from room to room, gently imploring us to “come and follow me.” We did not watch Maria sing on a stage up above. We stood beside her as she sang the title song in actual hills. We sat inside a room that looked very much like a chapel, and I had no trouble believing we were in an abbey.
The costumes and props were great; no two ways about it. At one point, they even had what appeared to be a legitimately old 1930s…something (I don’t know enough about cars to give a clear label) drive up the walkway. The costumes were undoubtedly authentic enough for me. Still, at some points, that might hinder families in the audience. If they don’t have much that is colorful or attractive to look at but only the realism of history surrounding them, children in the audience might find their attention waning. At this point, one might consider it to be the actors’ responsibility to command the space and attention surrounding them.
I will be the first to say that the acting was high quality. Shayanne Ortiz had a slightly tentative yet warming air about her as Maria that made you want to run up and hug her. Renee Curtis got into her stride as Elsa and no wonder she quickly got the best costumes out of everyone in the cast. In all seriousness, her cool wit and charm made her a pleasure to watch as Baroness Elsa Schraeder. Brent Schindele also seemed aloof and formal with his children without appearing (as some other Captain Von Trapps do) as a straight-up villain. His transformation by the end of the show is believable and heartfelt. No, the acting was not my main issue with this show.
Suspension of disbelief is vital when watching live theater. I also can’t say that this is anyone’s “fault” because I appreciate the artistic effort into creating a truly immersive experience into a type of past–but there’s only so much we can take before enjoyment is hindered. The night I saw the Sound of Music, there were frequent fire trucks, police sirens, and helicopters. I hope they catch whoever did it. Even the sound of regular cars driving by was challenging to ignore because there were times when the sound kept cutting out or going “fuzzy.” On the one hand, having perfect sound is a hard ask, but then again, they decided to stage most of their story outside. While the acting was mostly great, the set was creative, and the costumes appeared authentic, I would be lying if I said that these environmental distractions didn’t hinder a good portion of the evening’s fun.
Story9Acting8Set & Design8.5Costumes9Entertainment7.5
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Very Good Show! OCR Recommended!
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