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Theatre Bristol/Paramount Bristol
The ’Mount is alive

Theatre Bristol brings the classic musical ‘The Sound of Music’ to the stage of the Paramount

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Sounds of music wafted down the stairs and to the front door of Theatre Bristol on Monday evening. Voices, deep in the throes of practice, projected beauty. Lines, spoken from the pages of a script, accompanied the music as if on waves of life-affirming air.

They greeted you like a longtime friend.

Theatre Bristol was alive to the sound of music. About an hour before Monday’s rehearsal of the venerable theater company production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeworn treasure “The Sound of Music” — which opens on Friday, June 17, and runs through Sunday, June 26, at Paramount Bristol — director Glenn Patterson snagged a chair downstairs.

“It’s an opportunity to bring a classic to the stage,” said Patterson, a veteran director with years of directorial credits at Theatre Bristol.

“The Sound of Music” premiered on Broadway on Nov. 16, 1959. Six years later, starring Julie Andrews, the movie version hit the big screens, for which it won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Its line, “The hills are alive with the sound of music,” from the title song remains one of Hollywood’s most famous lines sung.

“It’s an iconic line,” Patterson said.

 “You can’t hear that line and not think of the show. And the music.”

Molly Doss stars as Maria Rainer. James Francis occupies the role of Captain Georg von Trapp. They fill but two roles among some of Hollywood and Broadway’s most familiar parts in a show that’s been tattooed upon the brains of generations of Americans.

“People have seen the show. They think they know it. But there’s nothing like seeing it live,” said Samantha Gray, Theatre Bristol’s executive director and the show’s producer. “For example, the nuns’ soaring harmonies are like a glimpse of heaven. When you hear ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ that’s show-stopping.”

Upstairs, a cast of 32 prepared on Monday. Heat high, attention to details higher, some danced particularly choreographed routines while others chitchatted or worked on their lines.

Preparations are needed for any production, but for a show that’s as entertaining and thought-provoking as “The Sound of Music,” such preparation is essential.

“It’s a story that does hold up very well,” Patterson said. “There’s more than one storyline going on here. It’s part of what makes this engaging and entertaining.”

Shortly before half past six, Patterson strode upstairs. For about a half-hour, he led the cast in a vigorous round of vocal calisthenics via tongue twisters.

“I’ve got a couple of pages of them,” Patterson said.

All in the course of show preparation, such exercises indeed warmed the cast. By the time the show began upstairs, actors were ready with lines spoken and sung.

They were magnificent. They wore street clothes and made use of few props, but no matter. When Molly Doss as Maria Rainer sang the line, “The hills are alive with the sound of music,” one could readily imagine the Alps rising high and white with snow all about them.

Props lay throughout the space. There were suitcases and tables, an encased guitar, bright-colored flowers, a silver bucket and unrelated evergreen Christmas trees from past Theatre Bristol shows. Costumes, many handmade by Camille Gray, were literally being sewn during Monday’s rehearsal.

“Scene 5!” Patterson said about an hour into rehearsal.

Moments later, seven extraordinarily enchanting and charming children, who play the seven von Trapp children, entered in boisterous fashion. They knew their lines, sang their songs with aplomb and portrayed the precocious von Trapp children exceedingly well.

“Kids,” Patterson said, “so much better!”

No giveaways. Those who have seen either a live production or the 1965 film version of “The Sound of Music” will easily recognize Theatre Bristol’s take on the durable classic.

“It is dramatic,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to engage with the story. You need to engage with the music. It is a classic. It is timeless.”

Tom Netherland is a freelance writer. He may be reached at features@bristolnews.com.

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