Reagle’s ‘The Sound of Music’ is true to its roots

Mark Linehan and Aimee Doherty in Reagle Music Theater’s “The Sound of Music.” (C) Herb Philpott Photo

WALTHAM – You don’t last 51 years in theater without giving your customers what they want.

During that time, the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston has produced classic American musicals.

For many years, producing artistic director Robert J. Eagle melded nationally-known guest stars with a sprinkling of other professional talent, established amateur talent and up-and-coming young talent eager to work alongside such pros as Patti LuPone, Shirley Jones, Sally Struthers., Kirby and Beverly Ward and Sarah Pfisterer.

He gained a well-deserved reputation for treating his guest stars with great respect, and the relationships served him well, but he was badly burned  by the last of his expensive guests: former “Dukes of Hazard” star Tom Wopat, who ended up being arrested and removed from “42nd Street” in August 2017 and pled guilty to sexual harassment a year ago.

Eagle went in a different direction, relying on established local talent with an occasional insertion of Broadway veterans.

Reagle has always attracted an older demographic happy with the familiar titles Eagle produced and one of the titles is “The Sound of Music,” currently being performed through July 21 at the Robinson Theater in Waltham.

Mara Bonde and Aimee Doherty in “The Sound of Music.” (C) Herb Philpott Photo

Eagle has never cut corners in the number of fully-costumed actors he puts on stage – in this case, 41 — or in the number of pieces in the orchestra – 18 in all, for this show — performing the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein score chock-a-block with standards such as “Climb Every Mountain,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” and “My Favorite Things.”

Aimee Doherty is the young novitiate Maria Rainer in pre-World War II Austria, eager to become a nun but falling short of the mark in some ways, concerning for the Mother Abbess (Mara Bonde) and Srs. Bertha (Yewande Odetoyinbo), Margaretta (Sarah Delong) and Sophia (Margaret Felice), who express their misgivings delightfully in “Maria.”

Maria is sent off to become a governess for the seven children of a wealthy war hero, still mourning his deceased wife.

The vocal demands of the role certainly weren’t a problem for Doherty at a recent performance, from the first few notes of the title song as Maria is radiant in the mountains where she is most at home, to her numbers with the Von Trapp kids, to her songs with Mark Linehan as George Von Trapp.

The youthful appearance of Linehan, who has forged a series of successes, many in comic roles, works against him in the role of Captain Georg Von Trapp , and at first he  struggles a bit to become  the cold, stern, distant father he became after the death of his wife. But when Maria enters the picture, her warmth and love for his children helps him to once again become the man he was before her death, and she supports his decision not to cooperate with the  occupying Nazis.

The seven Von Trapp children are a mixture of youthful charm and burgeoning talent but the  standout is Emma Heistand  as Liesl, the 16-year-old oldest daughter whose performs a charming, heartfelt rendition of  “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with Rolf  (Max Currie).

Robert Orzalli has done some fine work on smaller area stages in recent years, and here he gets a chance to strut his stuff as Gregor’s good friend Max Detweiler, the gregarious music promoter/politician eager to feather his nest before the Nazis complete their takeover of the Austrian government.

Janis Hudson is an elegant Elsa Schraeder, the beautiful heiress whose plans to marry Georg eventually fall by the wayside.

Director/choreographer Daniel Forrest Sullivan has performed at Reagle and many local stages and “The Sound of Music” is his initial voyage at Reagle as a director and choreographer. He effectively stages many of the scenes – the ones involving the nuns of the abbey are particularly effective both vocally and visually – but his overall choreography and direction works in some scenes a bit better than others, not surprising when you are coordinating dancers and actors of many different skill levels and a huge cast.   

Under Eagle, Reagle has delivered musicals the way both he – and his audience – like them, cognizant and respectful of their original stagings on Broadway, and their classic scores.  After 51 years, why change now?

The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston production of “The Sound of Music.” Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp. Producing artistic director Robert J. Eagle. Scenic design by Richard E. Schreiber. Costumes by Costume World Theatrical. Lighting design by David Wilson. Sound design by Robby Davis and Robert Luke Pelletier. Music supervision by Dan Rodriguez. Conducted by Jeffrey Leonard. Directed and choreographed by Daniel Forrest Sullivan. At the Robinson Theater through June 21.

The Von Trapp children and Aimee Doherty in Reagle’s “The Sound of Music.” (C) Herb Philpott Photo