Song & Stage

Theater Review: ‘The Sound of Music’ at Gateway Playhouse

The timeless musical sings.

The hills of Bellport are alive with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music and you can’t help but be charmed by this production. From the characters to the music, The Gateway has brought The Sound of Music to life, capturing the spirit of this beloved tale.

Our heroine, Maria Rainer, is a nun-in-training at the Nonnberg Abbey in Austria. She is sent to the home of Captain Georg von Trapp to be a governess to his seven children, as the nuns of the Abbey are not convinced Maria would make a very good nun. Played by Brandi Burkhardt, Maria is full of dreams and songs, and believes it’s her duty to serve God as a nun. As she sings the title song “The Sound of Music,” Burkhardt’s clear, strong, melodious voice transports you to those rolling hills in the countryside, where she feels happy and free. Singing “My Favorite Things” with the Mother Abbess is a delight, and it’s hard not to sing along with them.

Together, Captain von Trapp’s seven children have scared off every governess their militant father has found. Their mischievous ways are cries for attention from their often-absent father, and when Maria is introduced to this overly structured household she is determined to bring gaiety back into the children’s lives. She shuns the whistle Captain von Trapp offers her (to call the children, of course—and each has their own code) and instead begins to teach them music. The delightful number “Do-Re-Mi” is a favorite and it’s easy to get swept away with Maria and the children during this catchy scene.

The oldest of Captain von Trapp’s children is Liesl, played by Erin Grace Kelly, who at 16 finds herself confused about her feelings for a messenger boy named Rolf. Their duet “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is sweet, innocent and fun, but ultimately foreshadows trouble down the road for the von Trapps.

Captain von Trapp is played by Ryan K. Bailer, who at first is stoic and seemingly without feeling. We of course learn that he has lost his wife, and since her death his world has been devoid of laughter and music. With Maria as governess, his children are singing again and after a few weeks, his icy exterior seems to melt. Now he thoroughly enjoys having music back in his life—thanks to Maria, who he is beginning to fall in love with. The change Maria brings about in the Captain is spectacular, sweet and just what his children needed.

Brandi Burkhardt as Maria Rainer in The Gateway's
Brandi Burkhardt as Maria Rainer, Photo: Jeff Bellante

Amidst all of this, the world is on the brink of World War II, and German influence has begun to infiltrate Austria and its people. Captain von Trapp is a staunch anti-fascist and refuses to bow to the Nazi influence, despite warnings from his friend Max Detweiler (Tom Souhrada) and fiancé Elsa Schraeder (Jenny Hill) that if he doesn’t conform, he and his family could be in danger.

Let’s talk about Captain von Trapp’s children, who were the little stars of the show. From the oldest, Liesel, to the youngest, little Gretl (Sonny Betts), they’re all spectacularly fun to watch. Their rendition of “So Long, Farewell” was sweet and fun, and they executed it perfectly. Observant Brigitta (Allie DeMatteo) doesn’t miss a thing and informs Maria that her father is in love with her, which changes the course of Maria’s life. Scared witless and feeling out of her league, Maria leaves the von Trapps without so much as a goodbye. Back at the Abbey, she confesses to the Mother Abbess what she thinks is her great sin—loving Captain von Trapp. The wise old nun advises Maria to not be afraid of this love, this gift from God, and to embrace it instead.

The love story between the Captain and Maria is the stuff of dreams. The only thing that could stand in their way—the Nazi invasion—is a very real threat that reaches our von Trapp family forcing them to plan an escape. The last few scenes are tense, culminating in the first and last performance of the assembled von Trapp family in Austria.

The Sound of Music is playing now through August 17 at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport. For tickets and information, visit thegateway.org.

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