Julia Ullrich, back row, second from right, playing Maria in the Chemainus Theatre’s production of ‘The Sound of Music’, says the kids make rehearsals fun. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Music, performances first rate in Chemainus Theatre Festival’s ‘The Sound of Music’

Julia Ullrich as Maria is perfection.

An ensemble of excellent voices and charming performances anchor what is sure to be another hit for the Chemainus Theatre Festival in their first production of 2019, The Sound of Music.

This classic tale of nun-to-be Maria taking on the role of governess for widowed Captain von Trapp’s seven difficult children, falling in love with them and him, and escaping from the Nazis in Austria on the eve of the Second World War, shines on the Chemainus stage and it’s all about the wonderful, tone-perfect performances — and I’m not just talking about the music.

This show, which is only on stage until April 6 (run to get those tickets, this one is sure to sell out), could have easily been the theatre’s big summer musical, but instead we get this gem to kick off the new season.

The musical performances are first class, with all of your favourites sung to perfection, from ‘The Hills Are Alive’ to ‘16 Going on 17’. ‘Climb Every Mountain’, performed by Stephanie Roth as the Mother Abbess is a showstopper. Actually the nuns in general are a highlight and a surprising source of comedy.

Julia Ullrich as Maria is perfection. Her voice is excellent, but beyond that she embodies the journey Maria goes through from absent-minded nun to falling in love. Ullrich has a great rapport with the children playing her von Trapp charges, which is absolutely key to the success of the show, and great romantic chemistry with Ian Farthing as Captain Georg von Trapp (one kiss even got some vocal response from the opening night audience).

I didn’t know what to expect from the seven children (Hannah Patrice, Jonas Brittain, Anna Hill, Brin Slydell, Jillian Telfer, Julianna Toft and Kaia Russell and Megan Williams who share the role of Gretl) in the cast, as sometimes kids on stage can be a bit hit or miss. But this group was amazing, wonderful at defining their characters from one another through performing the challenging music and choreography. Patrice as the eldest, Liesl, deserves special mention for her portrayal of a young woman caught between family and romance, childhood and adulthood. She’s also got a beautiful voice which she used to great effect in her duet with Erik Gow as suitor Rolf Gruber.

Nick Preston as Max Detweiler was funny and charming, also playing the trumpet to great effect. Cate Richardson was both Sister Berthe and Elsa Schrader, the wealthy widow who hopes to marry Captain von Trapp. She had just the right amount of charm and steel, and played a mean violin as well.

This is one multi-talented cast that will blow you away. And if you’ve been given pause about heading to the show because you remember that the film version was long, fear not. There is no place where the show drags. Under the direction of Mark DuMez and musical direction of Melissa Morris The Sound of Music moves quickly, one iconic song seeming to lead into another, while the plot continues apace. You will not be looking at your watch. And I guarantee you’ll be humming as you leave the theatre.

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