In one of those stimulating matches of a performer with a role, Finnie Jesson is our heroine, Maria. She sings Maria's songs with exuberance and has tremendous warmth and connection with the seven children.
All seven of the children add sparkle with their performances. They carry off Larry Westlake's choreography for "So Long, Farewell" simply and expressively. As the eldest, Liesl, Ashley Cronk has a charming duet with Daniel Cornthwaite, playing Rolf, for "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."
Joe Cascone plays Captain Von Trapp, finding ways to delicately shade the performance so that the Captain is not shown as such a cold, tyrant in the opening scenes, as is often the case. He is still a firm disciplinarian, but believably transformed by Maria as she brings music back into his home.
The Captain's flirtations with the rich widow, Elsa Schraeder have a sense of innocent fun. Stephanie Douglas takes on the role of Elsa, making this a fascinating character. We can easily understand the Captain's interest in her, and she makes stunning appearance in the party scene in a brilliant red dress, one of the many fine costumes Sheila LaCasse has designed for this show.
David Haines plays the impish sidekick Max who ultimately drives a wedge between the Captain and Elsa, mocking their romance in "How Can Love Survive" and urging accommodation of the Nazi regime in "No Way to Stop it." These two songs were dropped from the film, and are less well known. The familiar songs are welcomed like old friends: The title song, "My Favorite Things", "The Lonely Goatherd" and "Climb Every Mountain." This last song is a stirring anthem for the Mother Abbess, played with great warmth and affection by Barbara Boddy.
Joe Cascone places his usual directorial stamp on the proceedings, never allowing sentimentality to engulf the stage. He clearly trusts the material as originally written, allowing each plot development to happen naturally. There are moments of sweetness to be sure, but these are balanced by character-driven humor.
The staging is kept brisk thanks to simple yet elegant design using a series of panels designed and painted by David Shaw that frame the action. Etienne Levesque provides the musical direction, utilizing a small orchestra which includes a two-piano reduction of the original Broadway scoring that works very well in this small theatre.
This is a welcome opportunity to see Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic as it was originally written, and no matter how many times you have seen this story before, it comes across as fresh and invigorating as walk in the Austrian hills.
The Sound of Music is playing at York Woods Library Theatre, 1785 Finch venue West, until Sunday December 16. For tickets visit www.MusicTheatreToronto.com or call the box office: 416-755-1717.
Pictured: Finnie Jesson as Maria, surrounded by (from left) Olivia Stupka, Lauren Bartleee, Ashley Cronk, Zoe Lee, Max Lee, Tiffany Stupka, Koby Lee in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Photo by: Bob Sanders.