Small town Dunn might not be the first place you think of when you think top-notch theatre, but Harnett Regional Theatre’s positively delightful production of The Sound of Music proves that good things can be found where least expected. The classic story is brought to a spunky and charming life thanks to tight direction by Dennis Johnson and stellar casting choices.
Johnson has a small space to work with, but creatively utilizes every inch, even having the nuns enter via the aisle space at the start of the production. Vintage-style hand-painted sets, constructed by Rick Stephenson and designed by Karen Skuce, serve as lovely and surprisingly believable backdrops to this whimsical production.
Mandy Holmes’ Maria is everything she should be—adorable, sweet, and just the right amount of spirited. Her “My Favorite Things” duet with The Mother Abbess (intriguingly portrayed by Teresa Alphin) is particularly enjoyable. The rendition is bubbly, and their interactions together are playful and believable, as are Holmes’ interactions with the von Trapp children. While all of the children are predictably adorable, there are certainly a few standouts. Anna Lia Ritchie’s brutally honest and super-sassy Brigitta induces much laugher, while Callie Banholzer’s doe-eyed portrayal of Liesl is spot-on. Noah Massengil is cute as a button as Kurt, and little Gretl von Trapp, portrayed in alternating performances by Ella John Dupree, is positively unforgettable. From the moment she takes the stage, the audience smiles and eagerly awaits her every line. Akin to a pint-sized Judy Garland or Shirley Temple, this dark-haired cutie with prodigious stage presence (and a hurt finger!) is certainly one to watch!
As for the adult performers, John Dupree’s Captain von Trapp is the perfect mixture of a cynical face and a cocky swagger, later replaced by true tenderness. He nails tough emotional scenes, including the heartwarming moment when he first sings with his children again, his dance with Maria, and a very impressive and gripping performance of “Edelweiss.” Last but not least, Rick Stephenson as Max Detweiler is, to put it in the show’s own words, “a little odd but charming.” With his own unique blend of smarmy likeability and fair-weather patriotism, he brings the character to a rich life.
Amy Langdon’s Broadway-style costumes and fanciful choreography by Lora Black tie the strong performances together, making for quite the charming little musical. To see small-town theatre get it right, definitely don’t miss this one! Performances run through Sunday, May 20 at Stewart Theatre. More information can be obtained at http://www.onlinehrt.org.