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Playhouse comes alive with the 'Sound of Music'

July 11, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

Kelly Jenkins ascends a small ladder erected below a stage light; a thin, shimmery blue shade is in her hand.

A symphony of sewing, sawing and show tunes serves as her backdrop. With little effort, the choreographer and owner of Washington County Playhouse inserts the filter before returning to earth and moving on to the next task required to get the latest show, "The Sound of Music," off the ground.

Fifteen feet away, 20 tops, actor/director Shawn Martin sits and surveys the scene. The hills are alive all right, but with the sounds of a construction zone ... and the occasional song lyric for good measure.

Welcome to tech week, the reliably frenzied period of activity leading up to a show debut. When "The Sound of Music" bows Friday night, the moment will represent the calm after the storm.

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"This is the busiest week, but some of our best memories are from tech week," Martin says. "I think there's a certain amount of tension and adrenaline, and that heightens everything, the good and bad. The bad seems very bad, and the good seems very good."

Fans of the Julie Andrews version of "Music" will feel very, very good indeed visiting this stage version of Switzerland. A traditionalist, Martin says the show holds true to the popular version of the tale, where the musical scale is as easy to master as "Do-Re-Mi."

"When I approach classic musicals or classical music, I'm a traditionalist. So the audience won't see a groundbreaking interpretation," Martin says. "The film is perfect, and you know if they've seen the film and they've seen this version of the stage show, they won't be disappointed."

Even if producers don't have sweeping vistas and breathtaking views made famous in the film available for use in set design.

"Now, I wish I could bring in the Swiss Alps," Jenkins jokes. "But we'll do the best we can."

Light on the dancing, Jenkins is spending the majority of her time on this show with the youngsters who serve as the von Trapp children.

Working in the show's favor is the timeless, family-friendly vibe coursing through the production's veins. Buoyed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein lyrics, it is first and foremost a musical for all generations.

"It's a great family show," Jenkins says. "It's a show you can bring your kids to and not worry about strong language."

The result, Martin says, is a show with universal appeal.

"I think, if you went up to somebody on the street and said 'sing me something from "Sound of Music,"' most people could go into 'Do-Re-Mi' or the title song and that makes the show very accessible for an audience," he says.

Seated at the theater's rear, which in reality isn't all that far from the stage, Martin says the tight quarters focus a spotlight on the actors, through which they can shine.

"The performances have to be stronger," Martin says. "The acting has to be truer because you're not having to reach someone in the back of the theater. Every seat is good and can see what's going on. But the intimacy gained is pretty impressive."

So he returns to his preparation, which includes mastering his role as the von Trapp patriarch. Juggling acting and directing duties can be a challenge, but working with a cast like this from both sides of the stage makes the task worthwhile.

"I think, really exposing youth to theater and the theatrical process, that's really been rewarding," Martin says. "Because hopefully we'll spark the desire to continue and work (in theater) throughout the rest of their lives."




If you go:



"The Sound of Music," a Washington County Playhouse production

Opens Friday, July 12. Continues on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Saturday, Aug. 31. No show Saturday, July 20.

Fridays and Saturdays, dinner at 6 p.m., show at 7:30; Sunday matinees, dinner at 1 p.m., show at 2:30 p.m.

Washington County

Playhouse

44 N. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $26.50, with discounts available for seniors, students and children.

For information, call 301-739-7469.

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