The Benedum Center is Alive with ‘The Sound of Music’

By Jessica Neu

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved classic The Sound of Music returns to the Benedum Center as part of the Pittsburgh CLO‘s summer season. The production contains all the familiar songs and characters that have entered people’s hearts and homes for decades. 

Before the production begins, CLO executive producer Mark Fleischer welcomes the crowd to another wonderful CLO show. He proudly reminded the audience that the CLO continues to be committed to using a live orchestra and acknowledged the 29 pit orchestra members who under the direction of Thom Culcasi help bring each well-known song to life throughout the show. Fleischer also helps to situate the show in a historical context by reminding audiences that the show was written in the late 1950s and depicts a family living in Austria during WWII. Fleischer explained that the CLO decided to keep the swastika symbols of the soldiers from the Third Reich. However, he offered a trigger warning and a quiet room if the imagery triggered anyone.

From there, the audience is treated to two and a half hours of polished, professional musical theater, beginning with the angelic choir of nuns led by Mother Abbess (Daniella Dalli). Their perfectly annunciated Latin hymns and harmonies rise to the heavens throughout the show. Dalli’s rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” is a pitch-perfect, show-stopping climax before intermission.

Dalli shows compassion and humanism toward Maria Rainer (Hanley Smith) as she is clearly not suited for life in the convent due to her desire to sing and explore the outside world. As a result, Mother Abbess sends Maria to serve as the governess for Navy Captain Georg von Trapp (Will Ray) and his seven children. Smith takes an endearing, slightly quirky approach to Maria that is more Sutton Foster than Mary Martin or Julie Andrews. Her modern, refreshing take on Maria paired nicely with Ray’s portrayal of the Captain, which was stern yet not villainous nor dictator-like. The von Trapp children delighted audiences throughout the entire show, often receiving applause in break-out solo moments. The children were perfectly synchronized through songs such as “Do Re Mi,” and “The Lonely Goatherd.” As they sang for Baroness Schraeder (Katie Sina), their harmonies during the “Sound of Music” was goose-bump provoking in the best possible way. CLO student Emily Harajda shines as the ever-so-honest Louisa, offering an indelible link to bringing her father and Maria together.

The eldest von Trapp child, Liesl (Maddie Dick), struggles with coming of age as she is uncertain of her need for a governess. Her rendition of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with her love interest Rolph (Sam Greene) was delightfully awkward, innocent, and charming, just as young love should be at that age.    Director and Choreographer Marc Robin’s staging highlighted Kenneth Foy’s scenic design as several downstage vignettes provided time for significant scene changes to move between the intricately designed landscape of the von Trapp mansion. The peaks and valleys of Austria’s mountains perched behind the von Trapp home are emblematic of the emotional polarities throughout the show.

We experience Maria’s journey to understand her own identity, but also the sheer joy brought forth from numbers such as “Do Re Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “I Have Confidence,” and many more. 

At its core, though, is Georg’s decision to remain faithful to his homeland amidst pressure to join the German military as Hitler invaded Austria. Ray personifies this internal struggle with the emotionally charged “Edelweiss” at the show’s end. His closest confidant, Max Detweiler (Blake Hammond), advises Georg, “you can’t help what’s going on, so just worry about yourself.” 

Perhaps the similarities between the social and political climate depicted in The Sound of Music and our current historical moment are a bit striking. This classic show reminds us that as we navigate the ongoing reconciliation between our identities and values, we must never forget to reflect on “our favorite things.”

Read Sharon Eberson’s commentary on. the song “There is No Way to Stop It Now” from The Sound of Music here.


Pittsburgh CLO’s production of The Sound of Music, has performances from
July 11 to 16, 2023 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Directed and Choreographed by Marc Robin, Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.

For tickets visit:m https://www.pittsburghclo.org/shows/the-sound-of-music#

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