116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When Brian Glick and Cameron Sullenberger bring a classic musical to stage, be prepared to feel like you’re seeing it for the first time, every time.
That’s especially true with “The Sound of Music,” onstage at Theatre Cedar Rapids through May 29.
I’ve seen the movie a gazillion times, played a nun at TCR in 1990, and saw TCR’s 2008 production on the temporary Lindale stage after flooding ravaged the theater’s downtown home.
However, so many revelations stepped into the spotlight during the current show’s final dress rehearsal April 28.
What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE
When: Through May 29; 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday; also 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. May 14
Tickets: $22 to $52, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or theatrecr.org/event/the-sound-of-music/2022-04-29/
It just has so much heart. And yet, it doesn’t gloss over the horrors of the storm approaching Austria in World War II. The Nazi undercurrent flows through several characters, from Rolf, the telegram messenger who is in love with Liesl; to the officers who come to the von Trapp home in search of the Captain; and especially through the Kaltzberg Festival concert, bathed in ominous red lighting, with Third Reich black banners striking a stark contrast on the deep red curtain behind the performers.
The stronger undercurrent, however, is its music. The sounds that keep the hills alive; the angelic harmonies from the abbey; the songs that have buoyed Maria from her childhood and sustained her after her parents died; and the music that filled the von Trapp home in Salzburg before the Captain’s wife died.
The house has fallen silent. The couple’s seven children spend their days marching instead of playing. Their only source of amusement has been playing tricks on the string of governesses, all of whom beat hasty retreats. Music reminds the Captain of his wife, and in the throes of grief, he has forbidden music and play, turning his household instead to the regimented way of life he’s known as a naval officer.
Being a musician, it’s weird that I’ve never connected all those musical dots. I credit Glick and Sullenberger for the vision, and Stephanie Hoklotubbe (Maria) and Joe Wetrich (Captain von Trapp) for bringing that vision to life.
From the moment Maria bounces into the von Trapp home, she charms the children and rankles the Captain by daring to brush aside his harsh ways. Hoklotubbe — a school nurse from Mount Vernon who has a professional musical theater background — is such a breath of fresh air in her TCR debut. Her Maria is vivacious, bold, daring and every inch the Captain’s match. It just takes him time to realize that.
Wetrich, who showed audiences the emotional depth he can mine as menacing, misunderstood Jud Fry in Revival Theatre’s “Oklahoma,” brings his entire emotional arsenal to this show, as well. From bewildered to offended to bellowingly angry, the Captain’s romantic side also marches front and center when he hears the children sing.
It’s such a tender moment as his broken heart melts at the sound of their music. When he and Maria finally admit their mutual love and attraction, the sparks don’t just fly. They explode.
Every voice in the cast is strong. Hoklotubbe’s shimmering soprano floats to the heavens and Wetrich’s rich baritone is so resonant, yet climbs easily into his tenor range near the end.
And then we have Rosemary Gast as Mother Abbess. She not only brings her glorious operatic vocals to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” she also brings sweet, motherly humanity to every interaction with Maria, as well as the rest of the nuns in her care. In the most beautiful way, she helps Maria sort through her confused, conflicting feelings for the Captain, sending her back to the von Trapp home to face a destiny as holy as a life of service to God.
Cindy Shadrick brings haughty airs and more glorious vocals to Elsa Schraeder, briefly engaged to the Captain in what would have been a marriage of fortune and convenience. Gary Benser oozes through the couple’s friend Max Detweiler, with a mix of genuine affection for the children and enough people-pleasing moxie to ride the coattails of the moneyed folks.
The children are completely and utterly adorable. All but Liesel (Madeline Kadlec) are double-cast, alternating performances between the “Roses” and “Kittens” casts. They will definitely be a few of the favorite things for all of their audiences. If you saw “Cinderella,” you’ve seen Rolf and Liesl fall in love before, as Ella and her charming Prince. Their chemistry and vocals are just as innocent, shy and lovely this time around.
And as much as I hate to give away surprises, be sure to have tissues handy during the wedding scene. Not only are the costumes breathtaking, but the music shows off a special feature of the TCR auditorium and cast member Randy Walton’s talent that will reverberate through every viewer’s soul.
All this beauty is wrapped in S. Benjamin Farrar’s magnificent scenery and Joni Sackett’s delightful costumes, from “ugly” to playful to elegant.
Do yourself a favor. Even if you think you know this show so well, grab a ticket and see it for the first time, in all its splendor.
Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org