Musicals are goofy. People are suddenly impelled to break into song and dance just for the hell of it, but when the songs are so great that folks leave humming them, and during the show a fresh ear worm riggles into consciousness every 10 or 15 minutes, why overthink the beauty of giving ticket buyers what they want? There's no shame in serving the art that sells. In fact, so popular are these musicals, normally the run gets extended even before it starts, which was true for The Sound of Music this year.
There are few musicals with as many memorable tunes as The Sound of Music, and Baker's current production of the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein chestnut has enough good singers in it to win over an already susceptible audience. Any successful musical has to start with a great selection of songs, but there is no substitute for solid singing to get the goofy thing across.
No woman singing the lead role of Maria can ever avoid being compared to Julie Andrews' in the 1965 film adaptation of the Broadway hit, but at the same time any singer cast in the role knows she's likely on her way up the mountain to a decent career because if you're Maria, it's your show, and if someone like Baker gives you that responsibility, it's bound to give you one more solid foothold on your way up.
Maria goes through a great range of experience in the Sound of Music. She has to deal with the convent characters, playing the defensive and the defiant postulant. She needs to enliven and manage the scenes when she and the von Trapp children are the focus, and she needs to seem plausible as a firm foil to the authoritarian stick in the mud Capt. von Trapp, and then his equal in her romantic relationship with the ultimately pliable captain. (The Lonely Goatherd scene is the singing nanny's biggest theatrical test, and Boudreau and the kids land it, both yodlewise and otherwise. Good, controlled rambunctiousness.)
Bourdeau vindicates Baker's belief in her. Baker has given Boudreau plenty of work and training over the past few years. He has seen her develop, and he has let her grow here in Edmonton. The New Brunswick-born, Toronto-trained makes Maria her own confidently and with genuinely fine musicality.
The rest of the cast, including a number of local actors/singers, is solid. The intermittent appearance of the nuns' chorus is always pleasant, not always perfect pitch-wise , but certainly pleasant. Susan Henley is obviously a versatile singing actor. Her My Favourite Things with Maria and her Climb Every Mountain scene with the nuns I'm sure tempted many audience members to sing along. I didn't hear anybody break into song.
Réjean Cournoyer has solid musical theatre chops. He, of course, will be compared to Christopher Plummer's take on Captain von Trapp. He doesn't do domineering as well as Plummer, and although Cournoyer is not a kid, the sense that he's en route to a sort of May-January engagement with young Maria doesn't quite come across. She's about to marry a man with seven-children, a man old enough to be her father, after all.
I especially liked Susan Gilmour as Elisa, the woman who is the captain's love interest, and more his age, until he starts hankering for the babysitter. Gilmour exudes her character's class, and she's obviously a real singer as well.
The children in the cast were fine. They're children, so let's just say, they're clearly capable of taking instruction and getting work done. Megan Anderson has a nice role as 16-going-on-17 Liesl, and Liesl gets a couple of scenes where she can be in charge. Anderson played her too demurely, I thought.
All the kids could hold a tune, but Ryan Jackson (Kurt) delivered a few beautiful boy soprano notes on his own at one point, and everyone in the audience recognized the effect excellent musical moments can have. Jackson will never play Maria, of course, but he has some serious musical potential.
Overall, Baker's Sound of Music delivers what any of the classic Broadway musicals that have made it into the standard repertoire can do. They give listeners the pleasure of sharing something both exceptional and familiar done live. The Citadel obviously believes in serving its community's tastes, and serve it it does with this tried and true musical.