BY SANDY STAGGS
In a weekend of two fine musicals with many a nun (after Spartanburg Little Theatre’s sparkling Sister Act)the Upstate Foothills are alive with a glorious The Sound of Music at South Carolina Children’s Theatre.
Artistic Director Matt Giles directs this pristine and poignant production of the final collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein. And the result is sheer perfection from its bold casting choices (Hallelujah, an Afro-Latino Captain von Trapp in Guillermo Jemmott), gorgeous scenic design (Genesis Garza), and musical brilliance from the entire ensemble.
With at least seven powerhouse songs that are ingrained in the public zeitgeist, and cherished for some 60-plus years.The Sound of Music, about the singing Von Trapp family’s flight to freedom in the Austrian Alps amid impending invasion by the Nazis. And though this final play of the SCCT season was chosen some 12-18 months ago, the invasion of Ukraine is not lost on this production’s leaders, nor the audience.
The always-magnificent Mary Evan Giles is Maria in this production full of artistic bigwigs. Giles nails Maria’s innocent charm and sense of humor and one could not ask for a better rendition of “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things” (with Cheryl Greene as Mother Abbess), or “Do-Re-Mi” as she teaches the children to sing.
And what an incredibly-trained group of youth as the von Trapp kids, all clad in costume designer Sarah Greene’s play clothes in coordinated silhouettes (from the drapes): Lexi Howard as Liesl; Eden Hammond as Marta; Vi Hux as Kurt; Riley Fincher-Foster as Brigitta; Raleigh Daniel as Freidrich; Nina Warren as Louisa; and Anneliese Price as Gretl.
SCCT mainstay and marvelous actor Neil Shurley plays the talent manager Max, and on the matinee I saw, his son Shaw Shurley stepped at literally the last hour to play Rolf, who is in love with Liesl and sung “Going on Seventeen” with Miss Howard. And he nailed it! This part is generally played by Hunter Ballard.
Hats off also to Danielle Knox for a stupendous turn as the Baroness Elsa Schrader.
And of course, all salute the patriarch of the proceedings, Jemmott (South Carolina’s only Afro-Latino executive director of a theatre company, Opia Arts), who gives the Captain a charming aloofness and endearing vulnerability, which is on full display in his final, heartbreaking “Edelweiss,” as he literally sings for his family’s safety.
Lauren Imhoff is choreographer and Steve Griner is music director, Ashely Pittman is lighting designer and Mia Phillips is stage manage for this must-see production
The Sound of Music continues for one more weekend May 20-22 at the SC Children’s Theatre, 153 Augusta St. in Greenville. For tickets, visit www.scchildrenstheatre.org or call (864) 235-2885.