Mac-Haydn’s Sound of Music a Truly Spectacular Production

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music is about as transfixed in the minds of theater and moviegoers as you can get. The somewhat fictionalized story tells the tale of Maria, a young postulant at the Nunnberg Abbey outside of Salzburg, Austria, in 1938, who is sent to work as a governess for the widower, Captain Georg von Trapp to care for his seven children. The musical, as real life, follows their relationship, and without ruining much of the plot, they fall in love, marry and flee the Anschluss by escaping over the Swiss Alps into Switzerland to make a new life.

(Clockwise) Emmett Mazurowski as Kurt, Quinn McCarthy as Brigitta, Rachel Revellese as Liesl, Aidan Brennan as Friedrich, Makayla Shores as Marta, Riley O’Kane as Louisa, Charlotte Miller as Gretl. Photo by Ann Kielbasa.

The music is at some level at least familiar to most people, from the title song to My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Maria, and Climb Every Mountain, to name but a few.

The Sound of Music has returned to the hills of Columbia County with Mac-Haydn Theatre’s current production. Directed by Producing Artistic Director John Saunders, we are presented with a true-to-concept production with some stunning twists. Saunders has put together an outstanding talent pool. Everyone from the top of the roster to the cast of the children to the nuns of the Abbey to lesser roles and have magnificent voices. 

Sarah Naughton as Maria. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

The show’s opening number, the Latin chanted Preludium, will leave you in awe. The nuns of the Abbey enter and bathed in a serene blue light, setting the tone for the rest of the production. Saunders begins by creating an almost ethereal tableau. A process of painting magnificent pictures with the actors and the assistance of lighting and costumes carries throughout this production. Rarely has Mac-Haydn put together such enchanting images for the audience to absorb. Scenic Designer Alivia Cross has presented basically a single backdrop set that functions beautifully in a myriad of settings, from the Abbey, to the Captain’s mansion, to the gardens, and of course, the Alps themselves. 

Angela Carstensen’s costumes and Emily Allen’s wig and hair design bring the characters to life. It is Andrew Gmoser’s gorgeous lighting that perfectly brings the scenes depth and creates the stunning pastiches to which the audience is treated. 

Eric Van Tielen as Captain Georg von Trapp. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

Mac-Haydn’s Musical Director, Eric Shoney, has an embarrassment of riches to work with vocally with this cast and uses them to their best advantage. Choreographer Elizabeth McGuire glides her cast around the stage, particularly with the beautiful Sixteen Going on Seventeen performed with effortless grace by Rachel Revellese as Liesl and Ofer Gordon as Rolf.  Of course, none of this works without a talented cast to pull it all off. 

Sarah Naughton is a delightful wide-eyed innocent Maria, and Eric Van Tielen is the steely, cold authoritarian Captain von Trapp got better as the evening progressed. As Maria matures from her life experiences, the Captain’s harsh exterior melts away. Arthur Beutel is Max Detweiller, the comic foil of the show, dear family friend, moocher, and full-time conniver, and Elizabeth Gurland as Elsa Schraeder, a wealthy Baroness brought to Salzburg to meet the Captain’s children and ultimately marry Georg. As Max asks Elsa shortly after her arrival about the upcoming engagement, have you made up his mind yet, says all you need to know about the two.

Their voices are radiant. Unfortunately, the characters have only two comic numbers, both beautifully performed, yet one can only wish they could share more of their vocal talents with the audience.

Alex Haines as Mother Abbess, Judith Wyatt as Sister Berthe and Emily Allen as Sister Margaretta. Photo by Ann Kielbasa

The show stopper of the production is Alexandra Haines as The Mother Abbess. Haines plays her part with a perfect mix of authority, larceny, joy, maturity, and childlike wonder. Her conversations with the nuns and Maria bring out a humanity and warmth not often seen in the character. It is her rendition of the classic Climb Every Mountain that leaves the audience riddled with goosebumps and chills. She performs the number from her heart, singing it with passion and love both to herself and for Maria, not in the over-the-top manner we have become accustomed to hearing. She alone is worth the trip. 

Sadly, this trip to Austria comes to an end this weekend. If you are fortunate enough to get seats, travel the hills of Columbia County and hear The Sound of Music for yourself. If you are familiar with the play or the movie, you will see this production as if for the first time. If you’ve never had the opportunity to see it before, there could not be a better first-time experience.

The Sound of Music at Mac-Haydn Theatre, Chatham. For ticket information: or call the box office: 518-392-9292.

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