It’s 2010 and the region’s two most prominent summer theaters, the Maine State Music Theatre and the Ogunquit Playhouse, have opened productions of, respectively, “My Fair Lady” and “The Sound of Music.”

Are we in a time warp? Is Ed Sullivan in the house? No. More likely we’ve just entered the comfort zone of familiar, song-filled classics programmed to ease us into the summer heat. (There will be more contemporary fare offered at both venues later in the season.)

Certainly, with its Alpine backdrops, “The Sound of Music” at Ogunquit presents a visual oasis. But, more importantly, with its highly-spirited cast of talented performers, this latest take on the trials of the von Trapp family comes alive like the hills and makes for a fine time at the theater.

The story is fairly well known. A novice at an Austrian abbey leaves in order to find herself. Maria is full of wide-eyed sweetness but also great determination as played by Gail Bennett.

She takes a job as a governess to seven von Trapp children who are living a rather regimented life under a single-parent dad who most call “the Captain” because of his military background.

The father, given a classic macho leading man demeanor by Rex Smith, pursues another romance but soon falls for this young woman who has converted his children, through music and understanding, from uniformed and marching cadets into something like real kids.

When the Nazis take over Austria and draft the Captain into the navy, the family has to flee.

Of course, all along the way in this two-and-one-half hour production, the audience is treated to a wonderful array of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs backed by a fine offstage band.

Bennett’s soaring take on the title tune sets the bar high but she and Meg Bussert, as the Mother Abbess, top it just a few moments later with a duet version of “My Favorite Things.” Bussert also reaches the theater rafters with her solo on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

Smith’s best vocal moment comes late in the show with “Edelweiss.”

We get the memorable “Do-Re-Mi” from Maria and the kids. It comes complete, as do many of the tunes, with some seamless choreography by Gary John La Rosa who also directed the show.

The kids, from little Anna Grace Gagnon to oldest Ashley Dawn Mortensen, are decidedly cute as well as talented. Mortensen particularly shines on “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Piper Kingston also stands out as the insightful Brigita.

Dick Decareau, as a family friend, adds some welcome comic relief and Crista Moore brings a stylish presence to her role as the Captain’s passed-over fiance.

Principals Bennett and Smith danced, sang and shared several kisses on their way to an abbey wedding which may have had a bit more stage fog than was needed in Friday’s performance but still made for a lovely tableau.

It is not necessary to hike steep trails to get to the theater and so there’s really no good excuse for not revisiting this well-done classic.


Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.