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Naperville Chorus joins with Summer Place Theatre to put on ‘The Sound of Music’

This weekend, Summer Place Theater is debuting the classic “The Sound of Music,” which has delighted audiences since it debuted on Broadway in 1959. The production features the heartwarming musical in its original state, which includes songs you didn’t hear in the Julie Andrews movie.

Summer Place will tell you the tale of young novice Maria, called upon by her Mother Abbess to care for the children of the widowed Captain Georg von Trapp. She falls in love with the children while the Captain falls in love with her.

But it’s not only a love story; the play is set in Austria in the early days of World War II at the onset of the German occupation, and Nazis exert an ever-increasing hold on the life of the von Trapp family, to the point of their plan to escape.

As is the case with many art forms, this play holds a mirror to society. The von Trapps see the future of an oppressive, totalitarian government while others around them either embrace it or hope to just be able to live with it. The play is as relevant today as it was when it debuted in 1959.

Summer Place assembled a talented group of actors, directors and technicians from all over the Chicago area to produce the show.

Maria is played by Katherine Damisch, who recently performed as Gwendolyn in “The Importance of Being Earnest” for Elgin Theater Company and the Cheshire Cat/March Hare in “Alice in Wonderland” for Citadel Theatre.

Georg von Trapp is portrayed by Matt Whalen whose Summer Place Theater credits include “Kiss Me Kate” (Fred/Petruchio), “Into the Woods,” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (first as Schroeder in 2002 and then as director in 2012) and “Grease” as director.

The cast also features: Lucinda (Lulu) Knight as Louisa; Nicholas Baumgartner as Friedrich; William Lardner as Kurt; Petra Ivanov as Brigitta; Kanyaka Jagan as Marta; Ava Rose Doty as Gretl; Sarah Ann Sutter as Elsa Schraeder; Reed Pence as Max Detweiler; Sadie Wynne as Mother Abbess; Lori Bush Shepard as Sister Berthe; Nancy Gallman Witzke as Sister Margaretta; Katie Soria as Sister Sophia; Jason Sheldon as Franz; Tina St. Angelo Wetzel as Ms. Schmidt; Jason Peck as Rolf Gruber; Rick Love as Mr. Zeller; Chris Knight as Baron Elberfeld; Antoinette ‘Toni’ Higgins-Thrash as Baroness Elberfeld; and Don Gingold as Admiral von Schrieber.

The ensemble includes: Angela Clark, Sandra Knight, Mike Levins, Laura Miller, Grace Catherine Politowicz, Katie Paulsen, Christianna Tai, Garrett Wong, Ceci Wynne, and Laura Zimmermann.

The play is directed by Jorge Bermudez, with music director Emma Gingold and choreographer Jake Ganzer.

Plus, they have teamed up with the Naperville Chorus to bring you soaring sounds from the Abbey of Nonnberg.

The show opens with the sisters of the Abbey singing evening prayers. The ladies of the chorus add to the Summer Place Theater’s own ensemble of beautiful voices to swell the opening number to angelic heights. You will hear them again several times throughout the story, especially the climactic finale.

The collaboration is a first for the two sister organizations. Both had their roots at North Central College. The chorus began in the 1920s as the Oratorio Society and became the Naperville Community Chorus in 1976. Summer Place was formed at the college in 1966.

The combination was the brainchild of theater leaders Ted Waltmire and Don Gingold. Waltmire’s vision was to “flood the theater with voices at the start and at the finale.” Gingold reached out to music director Jeordano “Pete” Martinez and chorus secretary Patrice Basso, who loved the idea and organized the ladies of the chorus to participate.

“The stage version is different from the famous Julie Andrews movie,” says Gingold, president of the theater group and the show’s producer. “The play opens with a beautiful rendition of Gregorian chant sung by the sisters, and the ladies of the chorus combine with our ensemble voices to bring the song to angelic heights.”

Not only are the sisters at the opening; they’re also at the wedding where they reprise “How do you solve a problem like Maria” and then for the finale they accompany the gorgeous voice of Sadie Wynne, the Mother Abbess, in a reprise of “Climb Every Mountain.”

Performances are 7:30 pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 pm Sundays, July 15 to 31, in the Naperville Central High School auditorium, Door 24, 440 W. Aurora Ave. The July 30 production will offer sign-language interpretation.

Tickets are $20 and $15 for age 65 or older or 18 or younger.

Tickets are available online at summerplacetheatre.org/Tickets. The box office is open one hour before the performance starts. Tickets are $3 more at the door than if purchased online. Or call the box office at (630) 355-7969, leave your name, phone number, and your order, and we’ll call you back to confirm.

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