‘The Sound of Music’ resounds in Bellport
Brandi Burkhardt (Maria) and Ryan K. Bailer (Capt. von Trapp) dance as Allie DeMatteo (Brigetta) looks on.

Photo by Jeff Bellante

‘The Sound of Music’ resounds in Bellport

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
8/8/2019


The nuns of Nonnberg Abbey, with jubiliant voices singing the “Preludium,” proceed down the aisles with candles. That entrance launches the gorgeous luster that permeates The Gateway’s new production of “The Sound of Music” in every scene.

The story of Maria Rainer, an earnest postulant who’s an imperfect fit for the abbey in Salzburg, then sent to the home of Capt. Georg von Trapp to serve as governess of his seven children as a trial, offers tangible life lessons: uncertainty of a life path, melding spiritual beliefs with the expression of personal gifts, grappling with profound loss, standing up for what is right are all age-old issues and why the story is beloved. It takes place in 1937 when the Nazis were beginning their brutalizing takeovers. But in Mitzi Hamilton’s directorial hands and choreography leadership, the scenes move with such grace; the flow is seamless.

A few shout-outs, and there are many. Those von Trapp children (the Yellow Company performed Friday night) are so spirited in character—not missing a beat—and joyful that you want to jump on stage with them.  The “Do Re Me” song that Maria introduces, playfully cuing the kids like an expert bellringer, is just one charming example. Catch Sonnie Betts as Gretl; it’s her first main-stage production and she had the audience loving her natural acting acumen. Liesl, played by Erin Grace Kelly, a recent Bellport High School alum, and Rolf (Nick Ziobro, an international recording artist) are a pleasure to watch, playing two teens in love with happy abandon. Kelly’s voice is clear and lovely while she twirls Rolf’s hat and dances on a stone bench, and Ziobro (look closely, he’s a young Jimmy Stewart) mixes false bravado with sweetness with a charmingly robust voice. (Ziobro was named national winner of the 2012 Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Competition.) 

Broadway and Hollywood actress Brandi Burkhardt embraces her Maria as strong and kind, not as naïve as the beloved Julie Andrew’s Maria portrayal in the movie, and her soprano voice, honed in several Broadway and many regional productions, soars with an ebullient force.  There’s great chemistry between Burkhardt and Ryan Bailer (national tours in “Evita” and “Les Miserables”) as Capt. von Trapp, especially during the Laendler folk dance, a delicate emergence of love in looks, hesitancy, and finally the breakthrough. The song “Something Good” between Maria and von Trapp is beautiful.

Bailer gives the grieving widower emotional depth with his impressive presence and contained demeanor, displaying his dismissive behavior towards his children at first and the face-off with Maria as she challenges him. That his wife was musical and the house had abounded in song was the reason for his rejection of all things musical now, a reminder of his great sorrow. He summons his children with a whistle to keep order, as he does with his men in the Austrian navy. (He removes it after hearing his children sing, a nice touch.) Bailer’s fine voice emphasized his solemn manner and vulnerability. 

On a personal note: Bailer’s support group was present in the audience, including his love Tatiana, who showed a photo of their son, 11-month-old Aiden, and his mother Penny Bailer, who flew in from Detroit; she intended to make all Gateway performances before flying back on Sunday. 

Tracy Bidleman as Mother Abbess played her as a sympathetic authority figure who understands the essence of Maria, even admitting to enjoying song herself. Her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was an amazing powerhouse of faith and its uplifting influence. Jenny Hill, as the gorgeous vamp Elsa, isn’t as brittle as she might seem and displayed a touching vulnerability, and Tom Souhrada’s Max Detweiler, the musical impresario, is the funny cynic, not as unaffected by emotion as he’d like everyone to think when he helps the von Trapp family escape.

The music, written by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (with the book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse), is based on a true story, suggested by Maria August Trapp. The songs are vibrant and might be a tough challenge, but musical director Hosun Moon and the band tackled the score admirably.

Oh, the voices of the entire company. This glorious, happy production offers a transcending night for the whole family. 

“The Sound of Music” at the Gateway will be performed through Aug. 19 on its Bellport stage. For tickets, go to
www.thegateway.org or call the box office at 631-286-1133.