5 Stars (Out of 5)
It's rare that you walk out of a show knowing you've witnessed history - and that is just what those seeing The Sound of Music at The Stratford Festival will be experiencing. Stratford's staging of the classic show, by director/choreographer Donna Feore will be talked about for years to come.
Stephanie Rothenberg, who stars in only The Sound of Music this season, is making her Stratford debut. She shines as Maria and brings an emotional depth to the character that is reminiscent of Julie Andrews' portrayal in the film that is also unique in a special way. Vocally, she is world class and I doubt you'd be able to find a more heartwarming and satisfying rendition of the title song anywhere. She has a star quality that is indescribable, and her Maria is incredibly energetic (she manages to outshine the adorable children) and likable.
Rothenberg is of course no stranger to the spotlight, having performed opposite both Daniel Radcliffe and Nick Jonason Broadway in the most recent revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She's a true star in the making, and I'm sure we'll be hearing about her continued success soon.
Ben Carlson is everything you'd expect from Captain Von Trapp, though like his co-star - his portrayal is more likable than I've ever seen it done before. Carlson doesn't go for the standard robotic portrayal of the Captain and instead realistically embodies his grief for his dead wife. This makes the Captains early second act personality change far more believable.
Anita Krause is a standout as the Mother Abbess. She has a fun personality which translates well on stage during "Favourite Things" - which unlike the film is a duet between the Mother Abbess and Maria in the stage show. Her "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and its reprise as the end of the show will leave tears in your eyes. As expected, her singing is phenomenal.
Shane Carty plays Max Detweiller to great effect and makes for a great scene partner to Robin Evan Willis' easily despised Elsa Schraeder. The children are all perfectly cast, full of energy, and excellent performers. They are Alexandra Herzog (Liesl) Zoë Brown, Sean Dolan, Alec Dahmer, Effie Honeywell , Graci Leahy, and Sarah DaSilva.
Musical director Laura Burton leads the orchestra at each performance, and since they perform from above the stage in a "loft"- they are expertly amplified into the auditorium by sound designer Peter McBoyle. Michael Gianfrancesco's set works well in the Festival Theatre, which has seating in an unusual configuration for a musical making for a design challenge.
The only fault with this production is Feore's odd choice to use some dancing cowboys (likely left over from her staging of Crazy for You last year) to move sets around the stage. However, once off stage the cowboys are quickly forgotten as you get swept back into the story. Feore has crafted a brilliant production - and her staging of The Sound of Music is probably one of the best you'll ever see and is superior to any other first class production which has played Toronto recently.
Heading to Stratford to take in a performance of The Sound of Music will be well worth the trip.
The Sound of Music has music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Lindsayand Russel Crouse. The musical is suggested by "The Trapp Family Singers" by Maria Augusta Trapp. The show us now on stage at the festival through October 18, 2015.
Tickets are available online at StratfordFestival.ca.