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Performers sing to Alpine mountaintops

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Lindo Meli, the veteran director of SMDG, now has another success under his belt. The large cast, including the seven children who played Captain von Trapp's family, sang their hearts out and acted with gusto.

The roles of Maria Rainer and Captain Georg von Trapp are played by the talented Dee Caraballo and the versatile Rich Weyhausen, with strong support from Ann Smith as the Mother Abbess, Nicholas DeCesare as Max Detweiler and Laura Blicka as Elsa Schaeder.

For those few who have not seen the original play or movie with Julie Andrews, the production relates the true story of the von Trapp family, who managed to escape Nazi-occupied Austria over the mountains into neutral Switzerland.

Maria Rainer, a postulant at Nonnberg Abbey since her parents died, is always getting into trouble, loves to sing and is chronically late for prayers.

The nuns ask in song, "What are we going to do about Maria?' Dee Caraballo, a community theater veteran making her debut at SMDG, plays Maria with a governess' strength of character, an innate sense of what is good for the children and a naivete of the outside world. Her voice is warm, expressive, clear and strong.

Rich Weyhausen, a tenor with an expressive voice, has played roles as diverse as the title role in "An Inspector Calls" to the jubilant Noah in "Two by Two." He has appeared in no fewer than 72 roles with various Queens community theaters. Weyhausen conveys the deep emotional turmoil in his multifaceted role as the Austrian patriot and World War I naval hero, Captain Von Trapp.

The captain's good friend, the impresario and irrepressible conniver, is acted and danced by Nicholas DeCesare, who can play both comedic and dramatic roles. His memorable Colonel Pickering in "My Fair Lady," and his devious role of Max Detweiler in this show, are good examples of his versatility. He has his disagreements with Captain von Trapp, especially over Detweiler's collaboration with the Germans in order to keep in their good graces. Von Trapp considers this a betrayal to what a free Austria stands for. Detweiler thinks: "It's better to be on the winning side than make enemies."

Frau Schraeder, a wealthy Viennese noblewoman and Nazi sympathizer intent on snaring Captain von Trapp as a husband, is portrayed by the lovely Laura Blieka.

Ann (Anna) Smith is the calm, understanding Mother Abbess. She has an affection for Maria and also loves the mountains around the Abbey. Maria is a problem, it's true, but the sympathetic Mother Superior knows that Maria has to experience the world and her place in it before she takes her final vows. She is the one who sends Maria with a recommendation as governess to the Von Trapp children. Smith's voice is thrilling and her rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" was stellar.

The nuns at the Abbey, who played different parts in the show, were all believable and their devotional singing was beautiful. The group included 16-year-old Melissa League (Sister Berthe), Bernadette Schmidt (Sister Margaretta), Linda Yorio, Gloria Caliendo, Catherine Martinet, Carol Stines and others as neighbors, postulants and contestants in the Festival Concert.

The Von Trapp household staff includes the burly butler Franz (Scott Winik), who tries to keep the household at peace, and a meticulous housekeeper, Frau Schmidt (Michele Cepeda), never without her whisk broom.

Rolph Gruber, the hero who saves the family as the Germans search the Abbey grounds, was ably played and sung by James M. La Ross, along with Liesl (Anna Maria Barczak).

All seven children sang like angels. In Sunday afternoon's performance, they were: Anna Maria Barczak (Liesl), Jeremy Salvatore (Friedrich), Monica Barczak (Louisa), Marcanthony Giannone (Kurt) and Leona (Brigitta) Togher as well as two other members of her family, Bernice (Marta) and second grader Danielle (Gretl).

Mention must be made of the Von Trapp Mansion set, a credit to the backstage builders under the supervision of stage manager Phil Eifler and lighting technician John Palmieri. The set was light, airy and the staircase a work of art. The music director is the very busy pianist Jay Shapiro, who is a one-man orchestra.

Putting on a show with more than 30 characters has to be a team effort. Carole Stines is the choreographer; her dancers are well rehearsed, as shown in this outstanding production.

One of SMDG ardent members is Ira Nathan who plays Herr Zeller, the boisterous Nazi official. Nathan has been an actor in 34 of the group's shows. Others in the large cast are Ron Cameron, Kathleen Young and Chris Robin.

"The Sound of Music" continues on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2:30. Call 718-672-4848.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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