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REVIEW: “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” — The Electric Company Theatre @ The Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Updated: Jun 22, 2023


JUNE 20, 2023 — FULLERTON


The hills of The Muckenthaler are alive this month with “The Sound of Music!” At least until the 28th. This show features a modern, re-imagining of this favorite musical, and of course you can count on the von Trapp family’s adorable children, an abbey full of lovable nuns, and the oh-so joyful Maria lifting your spirits with tunes we know and love…tunes such as “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Climb Every Mountain” along the way.


Presented by The Electric Company, headed by Brian Johnson (Director; Co-founder/Co-Artistic Director) and Callie Prendiville Johnson (Actress, Co-founder/Co-Artistic Director; “Shakespeare in Love”), the Muck’s gardens have been transformed to provide an all-new immersive setting, with audiences walking to nine different pre-designated travel points in the show in a brilliant two-and-a-half hour outdoor musically staged experience.


''The Sound of Music'' is, in fact, the last collaboration between the great musical theater artists Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Set is Salzburg, Austria, on the eve of the Anschluss in 1938, the musical is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." It tells the remarkable story of religious postulant Maria Rainer (Shayanne Ortiz), who is sent by the Mother Abbess (Leeza Yorke) of Nonnberg Abbey to be the governess to the seven motherless children of wealthy widower Captain von Trapp (Brent Schindele).

Shayanne Ortiz in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

At the time, the Captain is contemplating marriage to the beautiful Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Renee Curtis), though they perhaps do not agree on the implications of the changing political climate around them. The Captain is a proud Austrian unprepared to bow to the Nazi regime, despite the advice he receives to "be wise — compromise" by his witty best friend and opportunist Max Detweiler (Alfonso Neavez), the self-loathing character R and H built from all their complex feelings about Broadway producers.


Maria discovers that the stern Captain rules his home like a battleship, and his children like soldiers, but her infectious good nature, open heart, and love of music warms the cold nature of the von Trapp household. She quickly grows to love the children, and they her. When it appears the Captain is drawn to Maria as well, she must weigh the feelings that he awakens inside of her that would perhaps point to a life outside of the convent.


Shayanne Ortiz and Company in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

As for the kids, indeed, the “tea, a drink with jam and bread” brood does have a rough go of it overall: a remote father, a potential stepmother who turns out to be a Nazi sympathizer and, of course, a nanny who does loves them all, even if she abruptly comes and goes without warning.

Yet, in this cloyingly sweet story, portrayed well by a professional cast, under the astute guidance of Director Johnson (who has produced over 200 productions over a 20-year career), along with musical director Brent Schindele, the company delivers a non-stop series of scenes and songs with style, poise and grace.


Leeza Yorke in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Much of Director Johnson’s emphasis is focused on the kids, all of whom are great. For starters, he has cast Emily Taylor (also the choreographer) as Liesl, who shares her famous duet with Rolf (Miles Henry) and she choreographs that “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” number not as some Technicolor romance but as an expression of adolescent angst. Especially good also is the children’s “Doe, a deer” sequence, which not only showcases Ms. Ortiz’ big vocal range, but flaunted the “sibling’s” well-synchronized choreography and singing ability.


Then, when Maria sees Liesl slipping in through the window, wet from a sudden thunderstorm, she agrees to keep her secret. But the other children are so frightened by the storm, they all end up in her bed, one by one. To help ease their trepidation, Maria beautifully sings “The Lonely Goatherd” to distract them, complete with Austrian yodels and a fun harmony chorus with the kids joining in. These are the kinds of mellifluent songs that have you belting falsetto in the shower, dancing in the kitchen, and accidentally singing out loud in the car the next morning.


Shayanne Ortiz in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

The star of the show is, without question, Shayanne Ortiz, who you may have seen in another recent ECT production, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Ms. Ortiz plays Maria as her own, and who is as fresh and lovely as mountain edelweiss. She is in total control of the stage and of her character, and radiates all the charm of her predecessors in the role.


Emily Taylor and Miles Henry in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Brent Schindele is as polished brass, capturing the sternness of Captain von Trapp and perhaps also the loneliness of which his cool nature is born. He remains staunchly unmoved for much of the first act, but then succumbs to the romance with Maria, displaying then a tenderness in his physicality with her and the children.


Alfonso Neavez in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Mr. Schindele, not only a great singer but a very fine actor, has ostensibly dug deep into his guy’s psyche, his rage at the Nazi regime, and his fear and anxiety on the safety of his family. His effectuation on stage implies, even as he falls in love with Maria, that the Captain has all the earmarks of a multi-layered individual with integrity, skill and years of pent-up love to give his children.


Brent Schindele in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Ms. Curtis embodies sensual elegance as Elsa, and displays some lovely costuming to full advantage. She manages to make the Baroness pragmatic rather than selfish when she and the Captain part ways due to differences in political philosophies rather than over his love for Maria (though that love by then is already in place).


Brent Schindele and Shayanne Ortiz in The Electric Company Theatre's production of "The Sound of Music" at Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Leeza Yorke’s fresh and unexpected take on the role of Mother Abbess makes her more human and relatable, and nicely contrasts the sternness of the Captain. Showing her classical training at the end of act one, Ms. Yorke delivers the unforgettable ''Climb Every Mountain'' amid shivers and chills, soaring with both graceful vocal ease and operatic power.


The strength of this production lies not only in a perfect Maria and her talented cast of kids, but with some of the most beautiful numbers you can find anywhere.


Numbers, choreographed by Emily Taylor, that pop with life, honesty and pizzazz, delighting audiences at the Muck young and old, all secretly mouthing the lyrics themselves and grinning broadly in the semi-darkness.


Even the gloriously sung "Preludium" in the opening scene at the Abbey sets the bar for this production. The pieces sung by the Nuns, such as this and "Confitemini Domino," are welcome musical moments done to near perfection.

But then, the show never seems to outgrow its welcome, does it? It’s like a fairy tale sung at bedtime by the sweetest mother. And right now, after 64 years since its Broadway premiere, that fable still has a nurturing impact, packing a tuneful wallop to Southern California. Now, under a starry sky and the brisk, night summer air, you can be among the hundreds of theatergoers whose thrills have already come alive at The Electric Company Theatre’s “The Sound of Music,” as a cast of 45+ portrays the legendary story on the grounds of the beautiful Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton.


THE ELECTRIC COMPANY THEATRE AND MUCKENTHALER CULTURAL CENTER, PRESENT, THE SOUND OF MUSIC; Performing June 6th-28th, 2023; Music RICHARD ROGERS; Lyrics OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II; Book HOWARD LINDSAY AND RUSSEL CROUSE; Director BRIAN JOHNSON; Musical Director BRENT SCHINDELE; Choreographer EMILY TAYLOR; Production Stage Managers JORDAN JONES & JARED LINDSAY; Assistant Stage Manager CAITLYN KONECNE; Intimacy Coordinator CALLIE JOHNSON; Scenic Designer BRIAN JOHNSON; Costume Designer TANA CARMICHAEL; Lighting Designer MATT MANKIEWICZ; Sound Designer CALEB ALCORN; The Electric Company Theatre Co-Artistic Directors – BRIAN JOHNSON & CALLIE PRENDIVILLE JOHNSON.


WITH: SHAYANNE ORTIZ as Maria Rainer; BRENT SCHINDELE as Captain von Trapp; ALFONSO NEAVEZ as Max Detweiler; RENEE CURTIS as Baroness Elsa Schraeder; ANDREW AGUILAR as Franz; VENESSA VERDUGO as Frau Schmidt; EMILY TAYLOR as Liesl von Trapp; MILES HENRY as Rolf Gruber (June 5, 7, 13, 19, 21, & 27); GAVIN HAMZE as Friedrich von Trapp (Rolf Cover); KIMBERLY THAYER as Louisa von Trapp; MATTHEW GARCIA as Kurt von Trapp; SKYLAR WEBER as Brigitta von Trapp; MARIA BUDIANTORO as Marta von Trapp; BECCA LAST as Gretl von Trapp (June 6, 12, 14, 20, 26, & 28); CALEB ELLIOTT as Friedrich von Trapp; MIRANDA TAYLOR as Louisa von Trapp; CJ WALKER as Kurt von Trapp; LILY GARCIA as Brigitta von Trapp; BROOKLYNN RIGGAN as Marta von Trapp; CAMRYN DANCER WALKER as Gretl von Trapp; LEEZA YORKE as Mother Abbess; GLORIA HENDERSON as Sister Sophia; MADELINE NEAVEZ as Sister Margaretta; MEGAN CHERRY as Sister Berthe; JAMES HERRERA as Admiral von Schreiber; MICHAEL REEHL as Herr Zeller; SCOTT CARMICHAEL as Baron Elberfeld; TANA CARMICHAEL as Baroness Elberfeld. THE ENSEMBLE: ABBY CARLSON (MARIA/ELSA COVER); ALEX SOBOCINSKI; CAMILLE VARGAS; CHRISTIE LEFTER; ELLA HANGGI; JESSICA BELD JONES; LARA MARTINEZ; LARA VERRET; MAKENZIE MANGOLD; SAM CHAVARRI; SYDNEY LUCHANSKY; WYATT LOGAN; ZOE KIM; ZOE NAUMAN (LIESL COVER).


The Electric Company Theatre celebrates their 11th ECT production this month at Muckenthaler Cultural Center, which is located at 1201 W. Malvern Ave, Fullerton, CA 92833. “The Sound of Music” continues performances on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings at 7PM; A Sunday performance will be held at 7PM on June 25th. The production is 2 hours, 45 min. with a 15-min intermission, and starts at $35. Presently the show is sold out, but check with www.electriccompanytheatre.org/ for updates.




Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report







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