The Pittsburgh CLO continues its six-show summer season with a presentation of the classic audience favorite, THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Last performed on the Benedum stage in 2005, THE SOUND OF MUSIC remains a beloved tale about the significance of the resilient bonds of family.
It seems only appropriate to have cast Jennifer Hope Wills in a show that boasts the infamous "Do Re Mi," for Ms. Wills herself is very nearly a "drop of golden sunshine" in the critical role of Maria Rainer. She gleefully bounds around the stage from curtain up to curtain down, exuding an energy so youthful it is almost hard to believe she has a host of numerous and varied Broadway conquests under her belt - or in this case, her habit - including a four-year stint as Christine Daae in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
Robert Cuccioli is the perfect match to her bubbly Maria, making Captain von Trapp's swift and noticeable transition from a cold-hearted widower to a family man whose heart overflows with love and compassion. Mr. Cuccioli happens to be a CLO aficionado: he also played von Trapp in the 2005 production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (with former Trading Spaces host Paige Davis as his leading lady), directed the CLO's earlier summer 2011 production of JEKYLL & HYDE, and will soon play Pontius Pilate in its upcoming production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.
Other notable cast members include Lisa Howard as Mother Abbess, who packs a powerful punch in act one's final number "Climb Every Mountain," as well as up-and-comer Kirsten Hoover as the oldest von Trapp child, Liesl. A recent high school graduate, Ms. Hoover manages to hold her own terrifically, particularly in her act one showcase song-and-dance number "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." The remaining six youngsters are each wonderful, as well; the adorable youngest few are more than sure to capture a audible smattering of 'aww's from the audience every now and again.
The show's opening night crowd was dotted with a handful of youngsters, perhaps because THE SOUND OF MUSIC is, by nature, a show perfect for adults and children alike. (At intermission, I overheard a child in front of me ask her accompanying friend why everyone insisted on calling Fraulein Maria "frown line" Maria; that small misunderstanding aside, she appeared to be enjoying the show greatly.) However, be warned that the show is inherently lengthy, clocking in at just less than three full hours with a first act just under two.
Uncompromising length aside, the production is, on the whole, extremely well done. The pitch-perfect cast is only augmented all the more by James Brennan's stellar direction, previously seen in the PCLO productions of THE STUDENT PRINCE and INTO THE WOODS, among others.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC performs through Sunday, July 31, at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh's Cultural District. Tickets start at $21 and are available online at pittsburghCLO.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square. Half-price tickets, sponsored by Giant Eagle, are available for children ages 3-14 in Sections E & F.