THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Des Moines Playhouse

Distribution of “The Sound of Music”
Photo by Steve Gibbons

Growing up, there were two things I looked forward to being on TV every year, “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Sound of Music”. The latter of those films has become a television holiday tradition every year, including the return of live music productions. So when Des Moines Playhouse was looking for a family classic to stage for the 2021/2022 season, it was no surprise that they turned to one of America’s favorite musicals for their TV show. holidays. “The Sound of Music” opened this past weekend, and I’m sure this production is going to become one of the audience’s favorite things at Playhouses.

If you haven’t heard of “The Sound of Music,” the show tells the story of Maria Rainer, a postulant in training to be a nun, who finds herself sent as a nanny for seven children. Upon arrival, she finds out that the children are treated more as if they were serving on one of the ships commanded by their father, wearing uniforms and walking the field. When she learns that the curtains in her bedroom will be replaced, she makes play clothes for the children and teaches them a song to sing for the arriving baroness, whom the children’s father will marry. When the captain confronts her about breaking his orders for the house, they argue over the children and Maria is asked to leave. All of this changes when the captain hears something. The sound of music. Something he hasn’t allowed into the house since his wife’s death. Will that change the captain’s mind? You will have to attend “The Sound of Music” to find out.

I learned before this production thanks to the publicity of the series that Maria married the captain because of her love for children. Director Katy merriman takes that beautifully and makes sure kids can be seen in every aspect of the production. When the curtain rises for the show, you will notice at the front of the beautiful ensemble designed by Nicholas Amundson, are the two large fabric panels. While they might seem a bit out of place at first, once in Maria’s bedroom you realize that this is the same fabric as the curtains her character uses to make the children’s play clothes. This is reflected in Angela Lampe’s costume design, which also draws the audience’s attention to the children. Having curtains on the front of the stage allows the children’s and Maria’s costumes made from the same fabric to stand out when they are on stage. The show was beautifully lit by Virgil Kleinhesselink, with props designed by Barbara McClintock.

I enjoyed casting Merriman because she chose the lead roles in Maria and the Captain, which had very different acting styles and singing voices. It worked well to show how different each character was at this point in their lives. Jess Belch, who plays Maria Rainer, has a more modern style of musical theater in her voice. It gives the character a younger feel, allowing audiences to see how easy it would be for Maria to relate to and love the kids on the show. It plays so well with Matthew Nicholson’s Captain Georg Von Trapp. He has a more classical opera voice. It’s such a distinct difference from the other cast that it helps audiences feel the separation the captain brought into their life with the loss of his wife. It’s been such a heartfelt moment when he starts singing the cover version of “The Sound of Music” with the kids that will bring tears to everyone’s eyes in the theater.

When people think of “The Sound of Music”, the thing they probably think about the most are the seven children of Von Trapp. The students who play these roles – Sage Johnson, Ryan Henzi, Dawson Huinker, Caethen Stocker, Tatem Lowell, Vivan Rosalie Coleman and Naomi Davidson – are doing a remarkable job of bringing this family of children to life. They each found ways to honor those we’ve seen these characters play in the past while making them their own, which is no small feat.

Whether you’re looking for a new take on a classic musical or a heartwarming story to start your holiday season, this production of “The Sound of Music” has you covered. From the fantastic staging to the gorgeous designs to the exceptional cast, this production is sure to become one of your favorite things this holiday season. If you want your heart to be blessed with “The Sound of Music”, performances will continue until December 19th. To learn more about the show or to purchase tickets, visit

The review was written by DC Felton

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