Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 7:00 am By: James Cotter Source: Times Herald Record

ELMSFORD -  The hills are alive with “The Sound of Music,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that is now playing at the Westchester Broadway Theatre through August 11.  The story of Maria, a novice who becomes governess to seven rambunctious children of widower Captain Georg Von Trapp in Austria on the eve of World War II, the show, which opened on Broadway in 1959 and won five Tony Awards, combines a believable plot with wonderful songs like “My Favorite Things” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”  The serious issue of the rise and threat of the Nazis and the family’s future fate loom large as conflict between former friends and the Captain’s defiance increases.  To complicate matters he falls in love with the independent-minded Maria who wins over him and his children with the power of music and song.

As Maria, Aubrey Sinn is vibrant and inspired as she sings the title song in a tribute to nature and as she teaches the children to  intone “Do-Re-Me” and eventually involves everyone in singing “My Favorite Things.”  Sinn has a bright smile, strong soprano voice and an endearing manner, leading the kids in ”The Lonely Goatherd” with yodeling good humor.  Matthew Shepard plays the Captain as a stern father who soon softens as he experiences Maria’s inner optimism and joy.  He leads the family in a stirring “Edelweiss” at the climax of a concert before their escape.  He and Maria share a charming duet, “Something Good,” in which they confess their love. 

As the Mother Abbess, Karen Murphy wonders in “Maria” what she must do with a young woman who is not meant to be a nun and later urges her to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” by fulfilling herself as a wife and mother.  Murphy sing this anthem with resonant conviction.  She leads the nuns in several Latin hymns that bring a religious element to the story, especially in the wedding scene.

In the role of Elsa, the vivacious other woman in Von Trapp’s life, Michelle Dawson depicts her growing suspicion and jealousy of Maria with conviction.  Jamison Stern plays Max, a lively friend of the
Captain’s and a musical agent who recognizes the Von Trapp talent and urges them to enter a national competition.  He and Elsa share their fears in “How Can Love Survive.”  As Rolf, Cameron Bartell portrays a young man who has a crush on Liesl, the oldest of the Von Trapp children, but he is drawn to Nazi propaganda.  Molly Emerson is engaging as Liesl, experiencing love for the first
time but learning to judge wisely.  Rolf and Liesl sing an engaging duet, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”  A faithful  housekeeper who befriends Maria, Frau Schmidt, is portrayed by Melinda Tanner as a woman of commonsense and sound advice.  Bruce Rebold completes the household as Franz, an officious butler.

Of course, the seven Von Trapp children steal every scene with their beautiful timing in “So Long, Farewell,” singing and dancing in the dresses and suits Maria has made for them out of curtains.  They enliven all the numbers with fine acting and harmony.

Direction and choreography by Jonathan Stahl maintain the professional polish of past Westchester productions which makes the wide apron stage an open setting for dramatic action and dancing.  Leo P. Carusone directs the eight-piece orchestra with accurate timing for the memorable score, making even familiar tunes sound fresh and attractive.  Scenic designer Steve Loftus creates colorful backdrop landscapes, estate terraces and gothic convent interiors with a round rising platform.  Costumes by Loren Shaw bring out period fashions for the children and adults, from the nuns’ traditional habits to the shock of Nazi uniforms.