The Palm is alive with The Rep/Coral Society’s “Sound of Music,” through March 29

The Palm is alive with The Rep/Coral Society’s “Sound of Music,” through March 29

37 Allergies? Dust? Something in the air at Telluride's  Palm Theatre was making me tear up while watching Tuesday's dress rehearsal of the Telluride Repertory Theatre/Telluride Choral Society's cosy and warm production of the terminal blockbuster, "The Sound of Music." Surrender. Cry uncle. Guaranteed you, like Clint and I, will succumb to the charm of this Rogers and Hammerstein classic.

True the book is sugar-coated, enough to cause a toothache, but nowadays the blowsy optimism seems to work to the play's advantage: how nice to be able to take a time out from the long shadows cast by today's headlines to bask in the musical's sunshine and light. True the music itself is unapologetically melodic, but that melody creates a structure as solid and reassuring as the convent walls that try – but fail – to contain the moonbeam known as Maria, the novitiate.

Directed by the feisty, focused, uber  talented L.A. import, Cate Caplin – a newbie to town  but with over 100 productions to her credit as director/choreographer and an international dance champion – The Rep's adaptation of the Broadway show is marvel of restraint. She and partner in crime Dr. David Lingle, the equally but quietly gifted artistic director of the Choral Society, clearly made a decision to focus on the business end of the musical: they tell their story of courage and the power of love  – and song – to triumph over evil with few frills. In lock step with the two directors, the producer, Lutz Florczak and crew of about 20 deliver the goods: the sets, costumes/make-up, lighting, sound, are wonderful, but never upstage the actors, the heart of the matter.

The  wonderful cast is led by Amy Van Der Bosch in the role of Maria, the postulant nun who is sent from her convent to act as governess to the seven children of the widowed curmudgeon/decorated Naval officer,  Georg von Trapp. Maria winds up first winning hearts of the love-starved kids and then the noble nobleman. Together the nine of them wind up escaping the pesky Nazis by climbing every mountain and living happily ever after as innkeepers in Vermont.

Amy, a math teacher, has sung and danced since childhood – but mostly in the chorus. She is lovely in the spotlight, pure-voiced, strong-jawed, sweet and forthright in her portrayal, just like Julie Andrews, who became a star following the release of the 1965 Oscar-winning film version of the Broadway show. Her radiant warmth fills the theatre.

Sean McNamara is her the Captain, handsome, stiff-backed on the outside, but ultimately mush, once Maria touches his insides. Just as he moves through life  –  the multi-talented Sean is a writer, outdoor adventurer, and painter –   on stage, he goes from strength to strength. When Sean finally wraps his big, beautiful baritone around "Edelweiss,"  we are absolved of guilt for falling for the silly sentimentality.

The von Trapp septet act their parts with serene self-confidence well beyond their tender years, but it is unfair to lump them together as a group: Brittany Altman as Liesl, Jackson Blanks as Friedrich, Chambri Swartz as Louisa, Zane Jackson as Kurt, Annika Westman as Brigitta, Kira Ptak as Marta and Justus Tudor as Gretl, under director Cate's tutelage, have developed unique and distinct stage personalities that spill over the proscenium and touch the heart. Each one moves and sings with the aplomb of experienced actors and are determinedly cute.

(Brittany's break-out moment in " Sixteen Going on Seventeen," is a show-stopper, which she performs with the confident, handsome Spencer Zarr, who also comports himself like a stage veteran.)

The supporting leads deserve no less praise.

Jesse James Martin makes a wonderful "Uncle Max," providing comic relief as the self-aggrandizing impresario with questionable principles.

Traci Baize plays the brittle baroness like Marilyn Monroe with polish: she is sexy, funny and convincing as a spoiled aristo used to getting her own way, particularly with men.

Karla Brown beams benignly, wisely from under her cowl as the Mother Abbess.  In her boffo solo "Climb Every Mountain,"  her soaring soprano plays our heart-strings like a virtuoso. The covey of nuns she supervises act their parts with poker-faced innocence and sing like a choir of angels.

SOM may be corny, but The Rep's version left me feeling high as the sky on the Fourth of July. Bravo all.

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