Arts and Entertainment

SJC Theatre production of 'The Sound of Music' opens Thursday

Far right, Maria (Jill Urbach) sows the seeds of a delightful and heart-warming insurrection by showing Captain Von Trapp
Far right, Maria (Jill Urbach) sows the seeds of a delightful and heart-warming insurrection by showing Captain Von Trapp's seven children how the notes of 'Do, Re Mi' are the building blocks of any song.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

You can find out the answer to that timeless question as San Juan Community Theatre tackles one of Hollywood’s and Broadway’s most beloved musicals, “The Sound of Music” — with gusto.

The show opens Thursday; the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m.

And with a cast that features 45 different actors and actresses, ranging in all ages, a musical score backed by a 14-piece orchestra, some of the most cherished songs from the era when the Broadway and Hollywood musical was king, and loads of technical support, the theatre’s production of the "Sound of Music" is guaranteed to be a smash hit.

Oh, did we mention the production, with six evening performances and two matinees, is also the directorial swan song of theatre executive director Merritt Olsen, who is stepping down from the bridge of community theatre following a 12-year tour at the helm?

A veteran actor, Olsen has acted in only two plays during his tenure at the theatre, but he’s directed somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 20 different shows in that time. Though he doesn't recall the exact number off the top of his head, Olsen knows for sure that the selection of "Sound of Music" for the theatre’s major spring performance was an easy call.

“It’s such a much loved play and it’s a family story,” he said. “We did it here in 1998 and it was very successful, and we thought it was time to revive it.”

No one in the cast is perhaps more thrilled to be part of that revival than local songstress Jill Urbach. She is positively thinned at the opportunity to take on the character of Maria, a role that she's not only emulated since childhood, but one that also strikes close to home.

“Actually, Maria and I have a lot in common,” Urbach said. “There’s our love of children and of singing and at one time we both thought we’d have a career in the church.”

Urbach tries to embody the part with the type of “Confidence”, her favorite number of the show, that Julie Andrews brought to the role in the Hollywood version of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical.

“It’s a dream role for anybody, and we have a fabulous cast,” she said. “And it’s extra special because it's Merritt’s last play.”

Musical director Jim Collado will be leading a group of veteran musicians as the orchestra provides the performances musical backdrop.

“It’s a group of experienced musicians and they’re able to do a lot of the subtleties that makes the play interesting for the audience,” Collado said.

In the role of Captain Von Trapp, community theatre veteran George Iliff plays opposite Urbach. The two click in their respective roles on stage, Iliff said.

“Working with someone with such skills give your a lot of confidence,” he said. “She a pro.”

For those in the audience familiar only with the Hollywood film, the theatre's production will appear slightly unfamiliar and move at a somewhat different pace. That's by design.

Olsen said the theatre’s performance takes a bit from the Broadway production and a bit from the Hollywood film, and blends some of each. In the end, however, the cast, musicians and production crew appear to have hit all the marks in reviving this classic musical. It’s a must see.

— The SJCT box office is open Tues-Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; for more info, wwwsjctheatre.org.

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