It was a stormy night.
But that didn't stop more than 500 theater lovers Friday from attending the opening of The Augusta Players' production of The Sound of Music. Their reward was a nearly flawless evening of musical theater.
Emily Hobbs (Sister Margaretta), whose lovely soprano is the first voice we hear in the opening Dixit Dominus, sets a high musical standard, one that is met by all who follow: Vickie Patteson (Sister Berthe), Kitty Reagan (The Mother Abess), Erika Perkins (Sister Sophia), Andy Dyer (Rolf Gruber), John Greene (Max Detweiler) and especially Nicole Kuehl (Elsa Shrader).
The von Trapp children - all seven of them - are wonderful. They sing; they dance; they act. Seven-year-old Emily Bordon as Gretl is a delightful scene-stealer, and Megan Rice (Liesl) is ready for leading roles.
Ms. Kuehl is cool aristocratic detachment as Shrader, and Mr. Greene is quite funny as Detweiler.
But The Sound of Music would fail utterly without strong leading performers. This production did not fail. Heather Davidson (Maria) has 13 years of professional acting experience, and it shows. Her scenes with the children flow naturally. She meets them, overcomes their resistance, sings with them, wins their love. When they sing My Favorite Things crouched on Maria's bed during a rainstorm, they are a family. Mrs. Davidson's voice is beautiful, her acting animated.
Todd Colbert (Capt. Georg von Trapp) is funny as the stern, militaristic father who is frustrated by his children's exuberant playfulness and softened by the goodness of Maria. Also, he is believable as the fearless defender of Austrian nationalism who refuses to bend under Nazi rule. And he sings Edelweiss beautifully.
There were some problems. One never senses romantic chemistry between Capt. von Trapp and Maria, and a party scene never quite comes off because everyone enters in formal dress and almost immediately exits to an unseen terrace. The wedding scene has a bride, the groom, all the children, attending nuns - everything, in fact, except a priest at the altar in front of which the bride and groom kneel.
But the audience loved The Sound of Music. We gave it a standing ovation - not one of those ovations that struggles for realization as the audience stands in twos and threes, a clump here, a clump there. This one was spontaneous: We rose as one, applauding joyfully.
It was a shock to step outside and find that it was still raining heavily.
Richard Davis Jr. is a playwright and a professor of English, creative writing and communications at Augusta State University.