The Byham was alive last night with The Sound of Music!  (Is that getting old yet? I think I’ve typed it about five times now!)  To a packed house, Pittsburgh Musical Theater put on a triumphant, wonderful production of the beloved musical and did so with such talent and enthusiasm that I could easily write all day about the production.  But instead, I’ll offer you a list.  And I’ll title it:

THE TOP TEN REASONS YOU SHOULD SEE

SOUND OF MUSIC

1. Lara Hayhurst’s character interpretation of Maria.  She hits it out of the ballpark with her bright-eyed, wonderfully enthusiastic and passionate Maria.  Her character interpretation leans more toward the innocent, comedic side than a more stern, nun-like, soon-to-be-matriarch, and it makes for great pacing.  She’s the glue that holds the musical together, and did she ever make things stick.  She had wonderful chemistry with the von Trapp children as well as the Captain himself (we’ll get to that in a bit).  Her scenes with Betsy Lawrence’s Mother Abbess were especially touching.  Indeed, Lara showed incredible versatility with her character arc, starting out naive and a bit overwhelmed, then going through the confusing highs and lows about her feelings for Captain von Trapp, and then finally stepping into her own as a woman who knows what she stands for, who she is, and who she loves.

2.  Lara Hayhurst’s singing as Maria.  Lara belongs on Smash.  Or Glee.  Or the Lara Hayhurst show.  Her voice has beautiful color to it.  One minute she can belt like the best of them, and the next, she’s showing off a nightingale soprano that just thrilled me.  More than that, she didn’t let a song go by without bringing out some sort of nuance or shade to it, making it that much more vibrant.  For instance, when she sang the title song, she didn’t go for a big vocal showcase (though the song did show off her vocals), she went for the feelings behind it – the sweeping, glorious feelings of being atop her mountain and singing that her heart has indeed, been blessed by music.  She brought a sense of yearning to the piece that had the audience in silent rapture during, and ecstatic praise after.   Goose bumps broke out, people!  And don’t even get me started when she sang The Lonely Goatherd.  Okay fine, I’ll say this much: the girl can yodel.

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3. Jessica Ortiz and Isabel Ganovsky, Sky Bennett and Mathew Fedorek, Delaney Martin and Jill Kuhlman, Nick Cortzzo and Brecken Farrell, Erika Spondike and Lauren Haffner, Peyton Klein and Talia Akiva, Lilian McDermott and Haley Messner as the von Trapp Children.  The roles of Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl were double-cast, which is why there are 14 names up there and not 7.  But all the kids did an excellent job, and, for those interested, you can even catch them singing on Pittsburgh Today Live.  They’re adorable!  I do have to give a shout out to Jessica Ortiz as Liesl.   She soooo looked the part and did a fantastic job with her big Sixteen Going on Seventeen number.  And me, being a sucker for romance, loved how adorably awkward her kiss was with Rolf.  It just was so…teenage love.  Sigh.

4. Billy Hepfinger as Max Detweiler and Emily Lynne Miller as Elsa Schraeder.  Scene stealers.  ‘Nuff said.

5. Jeff Howell as Captain von Trapp.  In the words of Barbra, his voice is like buttah!  And you know what else?  Jeff Howell had me tearing up!!  Not full on sobbing or anything, but like, definitely a layer of water coated my eyeballs.  (I probably could’ve have phrased that with a bit more finesse.)  His scenes were some of the most emotional of the show.  When he’s just about to dismiss Maria and then the kids start singing and then he starts singing with them….oh my god.  And when he sings Edelweiss but can’t get through it so his family helps him…oh my god.  And when he won’t back down against those horrible Nazis…oh my god!  I loved Jeff Howell as the Captain; he brought such confidence and groundedness and, well, fatherlyness to the role.   It made his change from stern Navy man to family man that much more powerful.

6. The chemistry between Lara Hayhurst (Maria) and Jeff Howell (Captain von Trapp).  Not only do these guys sing great together – their voices compliment each other’s quite well – but there seems to be a genuine respect and admiration between the two of them.  They played up the romance just fine, getting the most out of their dance at the party and in their duet, Something Good.  *Happy sigh.

7. Additional Songs!  To my surprise and delight, several songs were in this production that were definitely not in the movie starring Julie Andrews, and, if I recall, weren’t in the production that came to Pittsburgh several years ago either.  How Can Love Survive, sung by Max, Elsa and Capt. von Trapp and No Way to Stop It also sung by the trio were lovely additions that, while I’m not sure totally propelled the story forward, they didn’t detract from it either.  And it was nice to hear Billy Hepfinger’s and Emily Lynne Miller’s voices.

8. Director Colleen Petrucci.  Is there anything this woman can’t do?  She regularly directs casts of over 100 – a lot of them involving kids ages 16 and below.  She always showcases a big, elaborate dance sequence, and she always brings the best out in each actor.  This show was no different.  She did a phenomenal job with making sure it all flowed together effortlessly.  Every musical entrance was on time, every high note was hit, every joke landed.  Colleen is the master of making it all look oh-so-easy, which only goes to show how hard she works at it.  (And, speaking of working it and opening night, girl was working that black dress and jewelry she had on!  I wanted to yell out Who Are You Wearing, but, being the professional I am, refrained.)

9. Seeing the PMT cast again!  There were a lot of familiar faces in the cast.  Shout out to Greg Messmer, Caitlin Crowley, Joshua Readon, Hope Gillespie and Katie Ross!  You all looked great!  And Davis Wayne, you broke my heart as Rolf!  Thank you. 🙂

10. Fun.  The show is just fun.  The good guys are good, the bad guys are Nazi’s, so they’re obviously bad.  The songs are recognizable and pretty much compulsively sing-alongable.  (I think I made that word up.)  And the entire cast seems to be having a blast.  And at it’s core, The Sound of Music is a love story, one that deals with many shades of love: familial love, paternal love, love of God, love of self, love of music.  And love really is the best part of any story.