Over the Back Fence: Foothills alive with ‘Sound of Music’ at Fallon House

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/25/2014 4:31 PM

Painted scenes of alpine beauty lend a hint to what will take place once the lights dim and curtains open. As church bells peal and melodic voices lift in the “Preludium,” nuns enter the auditorium from the back. En masse a hush descends. The theater becomes a chapel.

Last weekend I had the privilege of watching Sierra Repertory Theatre’s current production. Playing at Columbia’s historic Fallon House is the beloved Broadway and film classic “The Sound of Music.” This musical is the true story of a young woman who struggles to discover God’s will. In the process, she finds a family in need of a wife and mom.

With some theater productions, the audience is swept away to another time and place. But during Saturday’s matinee performance, between the lines I caught glimpses of the performers’ real selves. While they were portraying characters from World War II history, a bit of 21st century leaked through – to the audience’s delight.

Ruby Elaine James, age 5, stole our hearts as Gretl, the youngest von Trapp family member. With careful concentration, she was able to keep up with the challenging choreography.

As Liesl, Stefani Potter obviously enjoyed herself, laughing at times during her dance routine with Taylor Simmons, who played Rolf.

It was a treat to see John C. Brown, as Capt. von Trapp, actually play the guitar while singing the tender “Edelweiss.”

The only apparent blunder took place when the telephone rang. Brown turned to answer it, but there was no phone. Improvising good-naturedly, he gave the audience a knowing look and continued the scene without a hitch.

Playing Maria, New York City actress Rhyn Saver brings talent, spunk and warmth to the role.

“She bonded immediately with the kids,” director Scott Viets says.

As a new bride and stepmom off stage, she feels a personal connection with her character. Saver radiates joy in every scene.

In addition to successfully casting the lead roles, Viets created a believable group of von Trapp family siblings. The other five are: Jaymie Jackson as Friedrich, Chloe Kerr as Louisa, Wil Otterson as Kurt, Makena Early as Brigitta and Grace Miller as Marta. The talented young performers were great fun to watch.

Viets also pulled together a strong supporting cast. Stage and film actor Edward Hightower plays Herr Zeller, Kathleen Desilva is Baroness Elsa Schraeder and Drew Boudreau is the loveable Max Detweiler.

Merced’s Renney Doser plays Franz, the butler. Doser’s familiar face is seen on stages throughout Central and Northern California.

Multi-talented Becky Saunders plays Frau Schmidt, the housekeeper, and works behind the scenes as assistant stage manager.

Award-winning Victoria Strong is a most-impressive Mother Abbess. Her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” received an overwhelming response.

Every emotion is stirred in this tale of how an Austrian family unexpectedly found love against the dark backdrop of impending war.

Within the audience were multiple generations and age groups. It was refreshing to see grandkids enjoying the play with their grandparents.

Several theatergoers mouthed the words quietly as cast members sang the memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes: “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Maria,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “The Lonely Goatherd” and “So Long, Farewell” besides the title track, “The Sound of Music.”

Of course, we gave a standing ovation at the end. Comments of “Fantastic,” “Wonderful” were heard on our way out the doors.

For details about SRT’s event schedule, visit www.sierrarep.org or call (209) 532-3120.

• In Sonora, tickets to “On Golden Pond” are selling quickly. This play by Academy Award-winning writer Ernest Thompson is at Stage 3 Theatre through Aug. 10. Michael Lynch and Francine LaMeire have the lead roles. Seating is limited. For more information, call (209) 536-1778 or visit www.stage3.org.
• At Oakhurst’s Golden Chain Theatre, audiences can cheer for the good guys and hiss at the villain. “A Golden Fleecing” is running weekends through Aug. 24. Visit www.goldenchaintheatre.org for details.

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