Ordway’s 'Sound of Music' is a Holiday Treat

The sound of Music at the Ordway
The Sound of Music plays now through Jan. 2 at the Ordway. Photo courtesy of the Ordway.

The Ordway’s lovely new production of The Sound of Music provides all the nostalgia you might expect, with a consistently talented cast that goes above and beyond the call of duty to make the show a satisfying experience. Featuring beautiful orchestrations by conductor Raymond Berg’s ensemble and top-notch vocals from a mixture of local and national professionals, the Ordway production overcomes a handful of problems to breathe life into the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical’s familiar songbook.

For fans of the 1965 movie musical, the basic premise is the same: Set against the backdrop of an impending Nazi takeover in 1938 Austria, spirited nun-in-training Maria Rainer comes to be the governess for Naval Captain Georg von Trapp’s seven children, bringing music and love back into their lives. As Maria, Billie Wildrick captures the sense of joy and optimism that her character injects into the family’s lives, and the added dimension of her musical bond with Tammy Hensrud’s Mother Abbess provides both characters with added dimension. Their rendition of “My Favorite Things” is an early highlight.

The talented cast pulls off the iconic tunes, notably evident in Hensrud’s jaw-dropping high notes on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” and Wildrick’s work with her young co-stars on “Do-Re-Mi.” Although some songs original to the movie were noticeably absent in favor of less memorable songs from the Broadway production—“An Ordinary Couple” and “No Way to Stop It” establish plot but lack the charm of “I Have Confidence”—the actors do their best with the material. Kenneth Foy’s sets effectively transport the audience into the play’s world; the mountain backdrop was simple but useful, and there was palpable discomfort in the audience when Nazi insignias dominated the stage during the festival scene.

In spite of these triumphs, the show’s time constraints and chemistry issues created a few problems. Forcing the actors to simplify certain plot points into semi-awkward expository dialogue, elements such as the children’s attention-getting schemes and the love between Maria and the Captain were spoken rather than shown. And although their powerful voices sounded lovely together, Wildrick and Dieter Bierbrauer’s onstage chemistry wasn’t quite up to snuff.

However, as evidenced by the audience’s enthusiastic response on opening night, these flaws hardly mattered in light of the production’s matching the show’s iconic status. The consistently solid performances—and the young actors, particularly Caroline Innerbichler as Liesl and Natalie Tran as Brigitta, hold their own—coupled with the familiar story and the well-loved music, make the show a success.

The Sound of Music runs through Jan. 2 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, ordway.org.