In Review > North America

The Sound of Music

Central City Opera

In Review CCO Music hdl 1114
Manley’s Maria sings to the von Trapp children in Central City’s Sound of Music
© Mark Kiryluk 2014

For the second consecutive summer, Colorado’s Central City Opera has taken one of its shows on the road — down the hill thirty-five miles to Denver. Last summer, CCO staged Show Boat in Denver’s 3,000-seat Buell Theatre. This season, Central City Opera relocated to the slightly smaller Ellie Caulkins Opera House next door to the Buell, presenting seven late-season performances of The Sound of Music. Judging from the enthusiastic full house on opening night, August 2, this combination of a beloved work brimming with instantly recognizable tunes and presented in a venue convenient to the company’s Denver fan base proved irresistible to patrons. Adding to the appeal was an able cast of singers, all directed smoothly and unobtrusively by Ken Cazan (who had also guided the company’s terrific Dead Man Walking up in Central City earlier in the summer). The directorial plan was clearly to stay out of the way and allow Rodgers’s unforgettable score and Hammerstein’s equally memorable lyrics to hold center stage. (CCO’s staging included “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good,” Rodgers’s two subsequent additions to the original stage version.) Cazan inserted nothing daring or distracting, except for a jarringly enormous Nazi flag, lowered in front of the curtain during a lengthy scene change. 

The impressive physical staging — borrowed from the 2012 production by New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse — functioned well on the vast stage of the Ellie, dominated by a handsome entryway to the von Trapp home, its exterior and interior sides rotated on a large turntable between scenes by a fully visible stage crew. A generic painted backdrop, along with a large, rocky outcropping rolled onstage in the opening and closing scenes, provided enough suggestions of the Austrian scenery. 

Local operagoers have become familiar with the seemingly bottomless talent pool in the Colorado Children’s Chorale, which provided the youthful talent for six of the seven von Trapp kids. (The eldest, Liesl, was handled smartly by the delightful up-and-comer Julie Tabash, who sang supporting roles in Central City’s two other summer productions.) Lined up in no particular order, these terrific young people deserve special praise for their fine singing, charming acting and controlled doses of cute — Grant Bradow (Friedrich), Margaret Pilkington (Louisa), Grace Pouliot (Brigitta), Cooper Causey (Kurt), Kaylee Rooks (Marta) and Lucy Crile (Gretl).

English-born soprano Katherine Manley, whose stage credits are dominated by Baroque opera, looked quite at home as the attractive, rambunctious postulant Maria Rainer: it was easy to see how her young charges would be smitten with her charm and honesty. Manley handled each of Maria’s many bouncy ditties neatly, allowing her natural, Julie Andrews-ish accent to poke through now and then. Opposite her, Troy Cook’s Captain von Trapp was perfectly stiff and unsmiling, his baritone well-focused and pleasing, despite a curiously unemotional “Edelweiss.” 

The showstopper, climaxing each act, is that stirring anthem, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” here delivered with proper power (albeit with a briefly annoying wide vibrato) by Maria Zifchak, whose Mother Abbess proved a stern but sensitive presence. The convent scenes also benefited from the fine singing of the nuns’ chorus. Robert Orth managed to steal each of his scenes as Max Detweiler, exhibiting an impressive baritone and impeccable dramatic timing, as he has regularly done in his many CCO appearances.

Credit should also be given to sound designer Nevin Steinberg, who managed all those body mics expertly, eliminating the need for supertitles (used all-too-often for regional English-language productions). In the pit, Craig Kier drew sumptuous playing from his orchestra while remaining in sympathetic step with the singers — particularly the junior members of the cast. spacer 



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