by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Do-Re-Mi.” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” “My Favorite Things.” “A Problem Like Maria.” “The Lonely Goatherd.”
Yes, the hills are alive with The Sound of Music, but now the sounds are being made by the Raisin’ Cain Players in the just-opened Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St.
The Rogers & Hammerstein warhorse is a fine way to kick off the new theatre, and it’s directed with love and cheer by Dennis Adkins, a long-time leader of the arts in the Selma community.
Based on the story of the Trapp Family Singers, young Maria (Hanna Nielsen York) is sent by the Mother Abbess (Julie Valdez) of the convent where she is studying to become a nun to be governess to the seven children of Captain von Trapp (Michael Scott). She wins over the children and teaches them to sing. She wins over the captain and marries him, but she can’t win over the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, which wants to take over Austria. The high ceilings of the Arts Center allow the use of tall, swastika-emblazoned banners during the concert sequence. Coupled with the strategic placement of guards, an oppressive, foreboding atmosphere is created with simple techniques.
Selma-born York, who played Maria in last year’s Good Company production, reprises the role in her hometown. She isn’t ethereal like Julie Andrews in the movie version; York comes across as earthy and homespun, the country girl who was entranced by the life of the nuns, is awed by the von Trapp estate, and is frightened by the love she feels for the captain. Her voice soars with confidence and ease. York is also vocal director and assistant director for the show.
I never expected to fall in love with a nun, but Julie Valdez won my heart as the Mother Abbess with her celestial singing and beatific presence. She shows the common roots of Maria and the Abbess, and why she would care so much about the troublesome novice. Her singing of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” shakes the heart and the building. Wow!
Joy Bratton is politely predatory as Elsa Schraeder, the world-weary woman eager to marry Captain von Trapp for his money. Rich Burt is cheerfully mercenary as Max, the talent impresario who sees the family of singing siblings as a gold mine ripe for the claiming. Jonathan Waltmire is unctuous and power-hungry as the Austrian representative of the Third Reich, Herr Zeller.
It is exciting to see a community put its money into promoting the arts. Selma took the sale of one theatre building, insurance settlements for a building that collapsed, and generous community fundraising, and turned it into a real showplace for the region, attracting performers from Selma, Fowler, Fresno, Clovis, Kingsburg, Tulare, and who-knows-where-else. You might go to see The Sound of Music as an excuse to check out the new Arts Center, but you’ll find yourself in the middle of a fine, lively evening of theatre.
Tickets are available online at TicketTomato.com or in person at the Arts Center, 1935 High Street in downtown Selma. You can also call (559) 891-2238. All seats are reserved. Remaining performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, September 26-28; and 3 p.m. Sunday, September 29. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens (age 65 and over) and $15 for youth (age 18 and under). Group sales are available in all price categories through the Selma Arts Center and Chamber of Commerce. There will also be a Thursday Night Special September 26; adult tickets will be $15, with senior citizens and youth tickets priced at $12.50.
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