News-Register
December 1, 2009

“The Sound of Music” will fill Gallery Theater's main stage Friday, Nov. 27, through Saturday, Dec. 19.

“It's a really uplifting show, a perfect holiday show,” said Seth Renne, the director.

Featuring music by Rogers and Hammerstein, the musical story of the Von Trapp family will play at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Two performances will be fundraisers sponsored for other organizations, so tickets are available only from the sponsors. For tickets to the Nov. 28 show, contact the First Baptist Church, at 503-472-7941. For tickets to the Dec. 5 show, contact the Yamhill County Democrats, at 503-472-6486.

Séjourné Winery will offer a tasting at the Dec. 4 performance. Wine and food will be available from 6:30 p.m. until curtain time in the theater loft.

“The Sound of Music” is based on Maria Von Trapp's autobiography, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.”

The former nun wrote about becoming a governess to the seven Von Trapp children, then marrying their father on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Austria at the start of World War II. After refusing to bow to the Nazis, the family narrowly escaped from Salzberg over the Alps to Switzerland.

That's where the play ends. In real life, the Von Trapps moved to the United States and became internationally known for their singing. They settled in snowy Vermont because it reminded them of their homeland. Descendants of the family still operate a guest lodge there — and still harmonize at public events and in concert.

Maria's book was transformed into a musical in 1959 by composer Rodgers and lyricist Hammerstein, with script by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. Starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, it became the longest-running Broadway show of the 1950s.

Renne said the play's upbeat message still strikes a chord with audiences.

“It makes people feel that all the bad things aren't really that bad,” he said, “that there is hope; there is a way out. The present may not be great, but the future is brighter.”

The 1965 movie version won five Academy Awards and became one of the most popular movie musicals of all time.

When the play was translated to the screen, new songs were added to a score that already included favorites like “Edelweiss,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi” and the title number. Gallery's stage version uses all the songs from the original, plus “I Have Confidence” from the movie.

Maria sings “I Have Confidence”' as she leaves the convent to take on the world. “It's an interesting character building song for Maria,” Renne said.

In contrast, he chose not to use another movie song that's often incorporated into the play, “Something Good.” Instead, he went with the original number that's sung as Maria and the captain fall in love, “Ordinary Couple.”

Using the movie song would have cost Gallery extra. But saving money was not Renne's primary motive. “ ‘Ordinary Couple' is a simple, sweet love song. I like the tender moment,” he said. “And I like the juxtaposition. They sing about how they just want to be ordinary and grow old together, then a few minutes later they're running away from the Nazis and there's nothing ordinary about their life.”

This is Renne's fifth directing role at Gallery — his other musical credits include “Chicago” and “Tom Sawyer.” He also has acted in many Gallery shows.

It's his fourth time to be involved with “Sound of Music,” his favorite Rogers and Hammerstein musical.

He fell in love with the show when he was a sixth-grader in Newberg.

His class went to see a traveling Broadway production in Portland. It starred Marie Osmond as Maria.

Smitten, Renne returned home and went to the library to check out a video of the movie. “I watched it daily,” he said.

The next year, he lobbied his music teacher to choose the show for the school play. He served as student director and played Kurt, one of the Von Trapp children.

He was Kurt again the following year in a Newberg High School production of the show. After graduating, he directed a production of “The Sound of Music” at Newberg Free Methodist Church.

When Gallery's play selection committee was discussing the lineup of shows for the year, Renne jumped at the chance to direct it once again.

The end-of-year timing also was perfect for Renne, who will graduate from Western Oregon University in December, during the show's run.

“I'll be going into adulthood with the Reverend Mother singing ‘Climb Every Mountain' to me every night,” he said.

Each time he does the show, Renne said, he finds something different and more meaningful about it. This time, he has focused on the tough choices some of the characters make, such as Marie's choice to leave her order and the captains choice to reject the Nazis.

The stage play puts more emphasis on the difficulty of those choices than does the movie, Renne said. “There's a lot more message; it's more political, more about the Nazis,” he said.

The action takes place just as Nazi Germans have taken over Austria, where the Von Trapps live. Austrians can work for and support the Nazis, or risk imprisonment or death.

Renne said one of his rehearsals for “The Sound of Music” involved a discussion of the events leading up to World War II. He wanted cast members, especially the younger ones, to understand what motivated the Von Trapp family. That way, he said, they would better be able to portray the emotions of the show.

“All the kids are working really hard and doing a good job. This is some tough stuff for them, and some complex music, but they're handling it well,” he said.

Ember Eastman plays Maria, who leaves the convent to marry Capt. Von Trapp, played by Erich Berg. The Von Trapp children are played by Brittney Bailey as Liesl, Jamos Velarde as Friedrich, Courtney Joel as Louisa, Lydia Dolence as Brigitta, Colton Price as Kurt, Mya Clover-Ownes as Marta, and Mikaela Borg as 5-year-old Gretl.

Kristen Courter is the Mother Abbess, with Andreya Nicholson, Shainy Velarde and Scotty Dolence as sisters of the Abbey. Ben Los and Kathleen Walter play the Von Trapps' housekeepers.

Kyle Anderson is Rolf Grubber, Liesl's boyfriend. Kerra Keskatilo is Elsa Schrader, who has designs on the captain. Nathan Muti is Max Detweiler.

Dave Ferry plays Herr Zeller, with Glenn Eager as Baron Elberfield, Rebecca Cleveland-Stout as a new postulant, Norm Tognazzini as Admiral Von Schreiber and Kelly Maahs as Fraulein Schweiger. Lindsey Weeden, Karissa Weeden and Jeff Mina are the Herwegen Trio.

Other cast members are: Sierra Broussard, Jordan Ferry, Chantell Fredrickson, Dawn Graff-Haight, Kym Lockhart, Laura Lockhart, Hannah Miller, Resi Penninger, Dorothy Van Arsdel, Ashton Waechtler, Courtney Waters, Braeden Blanger, Sierra Broussard, Rjay Carey, Austin Ewing, Laura Lockhart and Jiff Mina.

The Frank Messina Band will play live music for the show. Kathleen Walters is the vocal director.

Paula Terry helped with the set, along with Robb and Marsha Renne, the director's parents.

Ember Eastman and Rjay Carey choreographed the show.

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