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Monday, November 16, 2009

“The Sound of Music” soars at LTM

MANCHESTER — Chances are you going to have a tough time getting a ticket to see “The Sound of Music,” at the Manchester Little Theatre, running through Sunday, and that’s a shame, because if you enjoy musicals, this is one to see.
A perennial favorite among community theaters, this show has more hits per minute than any I can think of, including, of course, “The Sound of Music,” “How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria,” “Lonely Goatherd,” “I have Confidence,” “My Favorite Things,” “Going on Seventeen,” and the list goes on.
Maria, played by Jessica Cutino, has a lovely voice that is most comfortable in the mezzo-soprano range, while Mike Zizka plays Capt. von Trapp with a strict but kind demeanor. Comparisons to the 1966 film are difficult to avoid, and here Zizka’s Captain has more depth and less creepiness than Christopher Plummer’s von Trapp.
The von Trapp kids are all fantastic, managing complex choreography, such as the delightful adaptation of “Lonely Goatherd” with choreography by Todd Santa Maria.
It’s a shame not to mention each child, because they are all great from Leisl, played by the graceful and lithe Jenna Vezina, to the empathic Brigitta (Maria Meier), to the cutest little peanut to grace the stage, Jenna Mitchell playing Gretl.
Timothy Russell as the young lover Rolf Gruber has a fine clear voice and makes a smaller part pop.
John Michael Whitney as the theater producer Max Detwiller has the self-depreciating smarmy cynical charm that’s irresistible. He’s honest when he says, “I like rich people. I like the way they live and I like the way I live when I am with them.”
Diane L. AmEnde plays Elsa Schraeder with less cattiness than in the film version, making her harder to dislike, but more realistic.
Unfortunately the two songs that Elsa and Max sing, which they do an admirable job delivering, drag down the momentum of the show and could easily have been dropped without being missed. No reflection on the actors, but the songs just aren’t that tuneful or memorable.
The nuns who kick off the show in harmonious A Capella, and then later in the marriage ceremony, are excellent and set the tone for the rest of this musical.
As fine as the entire cast is, the show stopper belongs to Mary deManbey as the Mother Abbess, singing to perfection “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” It is one of the most beautiful, moving, powerful songs ever written for the stage, and deManbey commandingly, confidently, and lovingly catapults this show to another level all together.
The set is solidly minimal, with a massive movable sweeping staircase, which, when turned around becomes an exterior wall. Cleverly conceived by Greg Cerosky and Leslie Mills, and designed and constructed by Fred T. Blish with help from the shop crew.
The costumes are a dream, designed by Vivana Lamb. The kids in particular, in their lovely party clothes, their wedding garb, their travel outfits, and their uniforms, really could not be better. I would have preferred Maria’s play outfit to be of a different material than the children’s, because she should stand out from them, not look like one of them.
How they manage to make all those costume changes so quickly and seamlessly is a tribute to those unsung heroes, the backstage crew.
Directed by Michael Forgetta with a strong and confident hand, this cast is well rehearsed. Every single word is understandable, even with the children, which is quiet an accomplishment.
Mother Abbess tells Maria, “You have to find the life you were born to live.” Isn’t that what we all seek? It’s the most important thing and “The Sound of Music” is a dear reminder of what truly matters more than anything else, and despite all the odds — love.


Three Stars
Location: Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester
Production: Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Directed by Michael Forgetta. Musical direction by Paul Coffill. Set concept by Greg Cerosky and Leslie Mills. Stage manager Tom Goodin. Set designed by Fred T. Blish. Sound and lighting designed by Glen Aliczi. Costumes by Viviana Lamb. Choreographed by Todd Santa Maria. Produced by Jennifer Lysomirski.
Running time: 3 hours, including one 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 22.
Tickets: $21 — $28. Seniors over 60 and students receive a discount. Call the box office at 860-647-9824, or visit their website at
Jessica Cutino … Maria Rainer
Mike Zizka … Capt. Georg von Trapp
Jenna Vezina … Liesl
Tommy Curtis … Friedrich
Katie Emery … Louisa
Sawyer Gaunt … Kurt
Maria Meier … Brigitta
Kellen Mitchell … Marta
Jenna Mitchell … Gretl
Diane L. AmEnde … Elsa Schraeder
John-Michael Whitney … Max Detweiller
Timothy Russell … Rolf Gruber, party guest
Mary deManbey … The Mother Abbess
Melissa Paul … Sister Berthe, Mistress of Novices
Jenna Levitt … Sister Margaretta, Mistress of Postulants
Sarah Jane Hayes … Sister Sophia
Douglas Ross … Franz, the butler
Lynn Ross … Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper
Ann Azevedo … Ursula, the maid, nun, party guest
William “Leo” Reaves … Herr Zeller
Alex Pazda … Baron Elberfeld, party guest
Sarah Logan … Baroness Elberfeld, Fraulein Schweiger, nun, party guest
Don DiGenova … Admiral von Schreiber, party guest
Kristen Shaw … A new postulant, nun
Susan Bailey, Laura Benson, Jen Berlin, Teresa Bonavita, Pat Covino, Aggie Dorio, Denise Gagne, Yvonne Jacques, Jennifer Lane, Donna Merceir, Joan Notghi, Nancy Rosenzweig, Sherrie D. Schallack … The Nuns of Nonnberg Abby
Jennifer Lane, Aggie Dorio, Yvonne Jacques, Pat Covino, George Pappas, Frank Dorio … party guests

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