Here’s a question I’d like census takers to ask the next time around. Is there anyone in America who hasn’t seen The Sound Of Music, either its 1964 movie adaptation—the third biggest moneymaker in film history when adjusted for inflation—or any one of a gazillion regional, community, or school productions of the Rodgers And Hammerstein classic?

Most of us have surely experienced the 1960 Tony winner for Best Musical and its Best Motion Picture Oscar-winning adaptation at least once, if not a dozen times, a fact that might lead certain theatergoers to wonder, do we really need another stage production of The Sound Of Music?

This reviewer’s response would be a conditional “Why not?”—providing that the production in question be the kind of impeccably directed, choreographed, designed, and performed revival now being presented by 3-D Theatricals at Fullerton’s Plummer Auditorium.

Yes, there are still moments in The Sound Of Music that will prove too sugary for theater sophisticates. Yes, a stageful of singing nuns can still at times be about a dozen too many. And yes, historical purists still have every right to carp about the show’s factual inaccuracies. (How’s this for fudging with geography? An escape over Maria’s beloved mountains would have taken her and the von Trapp Family Singers smack dab into Nazi Germany and not into Switzerland, 200 miles away!)

Still, with lead performances as fabulous as those given by Kim Huber and Tom Schmid as Maria and Captain von Trapp, oh-so-imaginative direction by T.J. Dawson, assisted by his wife Jeanette, a sensational supporting cast including a half-dozen or so Equity performers, and a couldn’t-be-better orchestra under the expert baton of musical director Julie Lamoureux, even the grumpiest theatergoer may fall under this Sound Of Music’s spell.

There’s no more enchanting musical theater leading lady than Huber, with Original Broadway Cast roles on her résumé and a list of L.A. and regional credits a mile long. The marvelous stage star gives Maria spirit and pluck and warmth and heart, bonds to perfection with seven young charges, and generates romantic sparks in abundance with her leading man.

About Schmid’s performance as Captain von Trapp in last year’s Cabrillo Music Theatre revival, I wrote that he “captures all of the Captain’s complex mixture of coldness, repressed pain, military bearing, and fatherly adoration” and that his “golden pipes make his Captain von Trapp one of the best sung ever.” Ditto the second time around, in a performance that has only gotten richer over the passing months.

As for the von Trapp children (Tessa Grady, Griffin Runnels, Jenna Lea Rosen, Carter Thomas, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Jaidyn Young, and Hadley Miller), all seven perform with professionalism, harmonize to perfection, and avoid child actor precocity traps. I particularly like Grady’s enchanting Leisl, who gets to perform opposite Scenie-winning CSUF grad Neil Starkenberg, terrific once again as her love interest Rolf.

Cynthia Marty is a younger-than-usual Mother Abbess, which gives her relationship with Maria a refreshingly different older-younger sister quality, Marty’s stirring rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” proving every bit the time-tested Act One finale showstopper it’s supposed to be. Alongside Marty, the sparkling trio of Abby Bolin (Sister Sophia), Pamela Hamill (Sister Margaretta), and Tamara Zook (Sister Berthe) join voices (and opposing viewpoints) in a futile but very funny attempt to “solve a problem like Maria” in song.

The Sound Of Music’s musical numbers include of course its now standard title song, “Edelweiss”, “My Favorite Things”, and “Do-Re-Mi,” all of which are performed to perfection on the Plummer Auditorium stage, with the later a particular standout as T.J. and Jeanette Dawson find original ways to reveal the personality of each von Trapp child through movement and song. (Watch how Leisl gets slowly drawn into the number by Maria’s irresistible charm.) “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good,” written for the movie adaptation, have shrewdly been inserted into the 3-D revival. “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way To Stop It,” sung by von Trapp family friends Max and Elsa, were cut from the movie but not in 3-D’s staging, providing here a needed dose of tartness amidst the sweetness around them.

A wryly amusing James Stellos and an absolutely sensational Jill Van Velzer bring the acerbic Max and Elsa to vibrant life. (Is there a role that Van Velzer doesn’t dazzle in?)

Supporting roles are played with panache by Melissa Batallés, Matthew Benedict, John Butz, Carlin Castellano, Katlyn Etter, Amy Glinkas, Natalie Sachse, J.P. Sarro, and Peter Schueller. Completing the enormous cast are Megan Cherry, Deborah Chitty, Macleish Day, Amy Glinkas, Laura M. Hathaway, Stephanie K. Leppert, Michael Marchak, Kimberly McCoy, Stephanie Selai, Matthew Thurmond, and Zachary Zaret.

Choreographer Kami Seymour finds numerous ingenious ways to integrate movement and dance into The Sound Of Music, an otherwise not particularly “dancy” show, in addition to her imaginative staging of The Sound Of Music’s signature dance duet, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen.”

The production looks great, with sets provided by The Music And Theatre Company (and additional scenic design by prop designer/set decorator Bruce Goodrich), and costumes provided by FCLO Music Theatre (with additional costume design by Mela Hoyt-Heydon), all of the above lit to perfection by Kent Sheranian. John Feinstein’s sound design, Cliff & Kat Senior’s wigs, and set decorator Terry Hanrahan’s prop design all deserve kudos. Huber doubles as dance captain and Starkenberg as dance supervisor. Lisa Palmire is production stage manager, Jenny Jacobs assistant stage manager, and Daniel Dawson and Gretchen Dawson co-producers.

Though Rodgers And Hammerstein’s final collaboration may lack the perfect construction of their Oklahoma!, or the dramatic depth of Carousel, or the social consciousness of South Pacific, or the cross-cultural richness of The King And I, there’s probably no more guaranteed family/crowd-pleaser than the legendary musical theater duo’s The Sound Of Music. Those in doubt of this need only catch 3-D Theatricals’ all-around splendid revival for proof positive that, despite its detractors, The Sound Of Music is in a musical-classic class by itself.

3-D Theatricals, Plummer Auditorium, 210 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.

–Steven Stanley
February 10, 2012
Photos: Alysa Brennan

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