Review: “The Sound of Music” in Mill Valley

Mill Valley’s Throckmorton Theatre is alive with The Sound of Music. Their production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic runs through May 29.

The show stars Katrina Lauren McGraw – a recent recipient of a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Principal Performance in a Musical – in the role of Maria Rainer, a spirited postulant at an Austrian Abbey who’s assigned to be the governess for a local Baron’s seven rambunctious children. Things get complicated when the nun-to-be finds herself falling in love with Captain Von Trapp (David Schiller).  Further complications arise with the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.

The Von Trapp children and Maria (Katrina Lauren McGraw)

The 1959 Tony-award winner for Best Musical has had a long life, including the blockbuster Oscar-winning 1965 film adaptation starring Julie Andrews as Maria. It’s a role in which McGraw never envisioned being cast but that’s one of the great things about community theatre.  There’s often a freedom to do things differently, whether necessitated by budget or encouraged by a strong creative vision, that more commercial entities rarely enjoy.  

Community theatre audiences are frequently more accepting of change (or forgiving of errors) because it’s their friends, neighbors, and family members up on stage. They know experience levels will vary and performances will range from the refined to the hammy, that lines will be bobbled, that costumes will often be anachronistic, and that on-stage mishaps will occur. They know the singing will sometimes be great and sometimes not. They know they’re not attending a Broadway touring show.

As long as they get a reasonable facsimile of the show they’re coming to see and the songs they’re coming to hear, they’ll walk out of the theatre with a smile on their faces. Director Adam Maggio and his cast of thirty ensure that and more here.

McGraw shines in a role she clearly loves and that love is palpable, particularly in her character’s relationship with the children.  The children are, of course, adorable, with sprightly Juliet Bambuck-Vasquez’s Gretl frequently eliciting “awws” from the audience. Maisie McPeek impressed with some fine vocal and movement work as Liesl.

Mother Abbess (Désirée Goyette) leads the Nuns of the Abbey in song

Fine vocal work was also done by David Schiller as the Baron, Kimberly Marron as Baroness Schraeder, and by the Nuns of the Abbey in several ensemble scenes. Désirée Goyette’s delivery of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” as the Mother Abbess was a high point – pun intended.   

Musical director Justin Pyne’s solid nine-piece orchestra was placed behind the audience which helped ensure every lyric could be heard.

The audience of friends and family leapt to their feet at the conclusion of the performance. I left smiling, too.

‘The Sound of Music’ runs through May 29 at the Throckmorton Theatre. 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. Fri & Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2:30pm. $25-$45.  Masking required to attend. 415.383.9600.

Photos by Reba Gilbert

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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