The memorable songs in “The Sound of Music” readily come to mind, and director Zach Johnson obviously had that in his own mind when he selected the cast for “The Sound of Music.” From the nuns in the abbey to Maria and the children, the voices are beautiful. And once again, San Luis Obispo Little Theatre proves that it can pack the magic of a big musical into an intimate space.
We are likely to picture Julie Andrews in the role of Maria, the young postulate who doesn’t quite fit into the mold at the abbey and is assigned to become a nanny for the stern Captain Von Trapp’s seven children. The Captain, grieving for his wife, has turned his home and children into a version of his shipboard command posts. As Maria brings music and love back to the children, she wins his heart as well.
Kerry DiMaggio and John Laird are physically quite different from the originals in the screen version of the story, but they inhabit the characters in their own way, and the originals are soon forgotten.
DiMaggio has a voice to equal Andrews, and it’s perfect for the lyrical songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, such as “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and the title song. She gives Maria spunk, combined with a sweet vulnerability, and Laird is likable as Captain von Trapp, whose tough attitude softens as he reconnects with his children.
The most operatic voice in the cast belongs to Katie Gucik, who, as the Mother Abbess, sings the most powerful song, “Climb Every Mountain.” The other nuns, played by Carey Blauvelt, Danielle Dutro, and Kristina Horacek, have lovely voices that blend for their choral pieces.
The children are delightful, and each one is endowed with his or her own personality. All of them are, at their young ages, already experienced on local stages. Ariana Shakibnia is Liesl, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” and Mackenzie Allen is Louisa. Ella Harris is Marta, and Trevyn Wong is the shy boy, Friedrich. As Brigitta, Marisa Dinsmoor has a key moment as she informs Maria that she and Brigitta’s father are in love. Serafina Regusci is cute as Gretl, the youngest. Sacha Carlson is Kurt, outspoken and lively as he sings and dances. These are names that we will see again as they grow into new roles. They all sing together in sweet harmony. Lacey McNamara is musical director.
The setting is Austria in 1938, and in the second act, the Nazi threat that loomed in the first act turns to action against the Captain and his family, who resist assimilation into the regime of the Third Reich. But his friends and associates, and even his fiancée, decide that the only way to survive is to go along with the Germans.
Kelly Fidopiastis is good as the captain’s fiancée, an independent, self-assured woman, but there is no hint as to why he wants to marry her. Herr Max Detweiler, the captain’s friend who grooms the children to sing in a German concert and who cooperates with the Third Reich in self- defense, is played with style and humor by Larry Kaml. Rolf Gruber, a young man who joins the Germans but is sweet on Liesl, is well played and sung by Ayrton Parham.
The set is one-size-fits-all, ideal for the small space, where frequent scene changes can be distracting. A large construction of painted walls with two staircases, it swings open and swirls around to depict the abbey or the captain’s home, inside or outside, with a few props like greenery or a desk to set the scene. The set was designed by director Johnson and Dave Linfield.
The costumes, by Keith Wetzel, are fun, from the children’s sailor suit uniforms in the beginning to the girls’ “white dresses with blue satin sashes” in a party scene.
This is a familiar, family-friendly musical, and it was sold out on Saturday afternoon. I drove home singing.
IF YOU GO
"The Sound of Music"
7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 23
San Luis Obispo Little Theater, 888 Morro St., San Luis Obispo
$15 to $25
786-2440 or www.slolittletheatre.org