Executive Director of The Missoula Children’s Theater, Jim Caron, says he auditioned an overwhelming number of wonderful women actors for MCT’s upcoming production of The Sound of Music, which opens this Thursday in Missoula. The result is an unusually large and talented cast of more than 80 performers, many of whom contribute to a chorus that, Caron says, creates a spectacular sound. It’s a sound many of you may have heard before.
Written in 1959 by the grandfathers of the American Broadway musical, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, The Sound of Music surpasses all others in popular appeal. The story, as you may know, begins in “the lost golden days of the 1930s” high on a green hill above Salzburg, Austria. MCT favorite Alicia Bullock, in a role that showcases the full range of her talent, returns as Maria, a young postulant, singing gaily, inspired by the beauty of nature that surrounds her.
While she longs to take her solemn nun’s vows, her carefree ways give pause to the Reverend Mother. Maria is sent away from the abbey, for a time, to serve as governess to the seven motherless children of an older man, Captain Von Trapp, played by MCT’s Don Fuhrmann. She prays for courage, for the strength to guide these children who have gone through no fewer than 12 other governesses. And she aims to prepare them for a new mother, whoever that may be.
“It has to do with personal strength and family strength,” says Caron, regarding one of the musical’s broadest themes. “It is Maria’s story of having the strength to make a change from one radically different life path to another.”
The musical aspects of The Sound of Music blend seamlessly with its dramatic elements to create a show that is never forced or artificial, as some musicals can be. The insidious Nazi takeover of Austria provides a nuanced backdrop to the unlikely, albeit true, romance that unfolds between Maria and Captain Von Trapp. Plus, catchy tunes like “My Favorite Things” and “Doe a Deer,” not to mention the musical’s title song, help to create an irresistible spectacle in this, the last and favorite collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Technical innovations also promise to offer further dimensions to the tale. In the MCT production, the now-famous opening scene of the hills outside Salzburg are depicted solely through the clever use of light and shape, rather than backdrop. The elaborate number of costumes between Maria and the children alone reaches a total of 64.
In the end, of course, Maria emerges resourceful, stubborn and clear in her objectives. She is the vehicle by which Rodgers and Hammerstein convey an easy enjoyment of life, the absolute necessity of song and dance—delightful expression, true, unsuppressed and overflowing—which is in the end, an essential message of the musical genre itself.
MCT presents The Sound of Music Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 2-5, 9-12. Showtime 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Sunday evening performances at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Ticket prices vary. Call 728-PLAY.