Lisa Mandelkorn readily confessed to having – after accepting the director’s job for Ovation! Performing Arts Northwest’s holiday production of “The Sound of Music” – more than a couple of “What have I done?” moments.
“There’s a lot to deal with, and I’ve sometimes wondered what I was thinking taking this on,” she said of the musical, which runs Dec. 2-11 at the Bainbridge High School theater.
Mandelkorn, who relocated to BI from New York, shifted gears from a thriving opera career. She takes the helm of Ovation!’s first full-throated musical since the gut punches of the COVID shutdown and the death of founder Ron Milton.
There are some key parts in place, though. Producer Giselle Vincent began her Ovation! experience the last couple seasons of the Milton era. Some of the actors also have Ovation! experience.
Chief among them is Myriah Riedel; most recently, she played Nellie Forbush in the 2017 production of “South Pacific.” Riedel plays Julie Andrews’ iconic role of Maria Rainer, the conflicted novice who finds herself assigned to nanny the seven children of Baron Georg von Trapp, a sullen widower whose war-hero status puts him at odds with the rise of the Nazis in his beloved Austria.
Playing the Captain is Max Martina, a stage veteran who Mandelkorn said is flourishing in his first “sung” role. Kate Pippinger, who was Maria in Ovation!’s 2010 production of the same musical, this time plays Elsa, a wealthy socialite the captain is unenthusiastically courting. Jeni Hawkes is cast as the Mother Abbess, an assignment that carries with it the show’s anthemic “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”
Matt Eldridge is Max Detweiler, the captain’s friend and an inveterate opportunist. “People don’t know Max, because a lot of Max was cut from the (1965 Andrews-Christopher Plummer film),” Mandelkorn said. “Matt originally auditioned for the Captain, but I told him he might like (Detweiler) better.”
The von Trapp children (in descending order of age) are played by Gracie Cate Moffat (Liesl, Mandelkorn’s real-life daughter), Dolly Courtway (Frederick), Alexandria Douthart (Luisa), Harper Rogers (Brigitta; Zoe LaRubbio will understudy and have two performances), Chase Hopper (Kurt), Valencia Minoza (Marta) and Willow Erdman (Gretl).
The musical director is Chris DiStefano, whose resume includes more than 300 productions as an actor and music director at the 5th Avenue Theatre, among others.
Working in the school’s new theater has been a challenge. “It’s very big, it has alot of state-of-the-art stuff, but I haven’t worked in it before, which is a disadvantage,” Mandelkorn said.
As usual, Ovation! can’t move into the school’s building until a week before Opening Night. So sets will be minimal and portable. “The goal is to never have a blackout,” Mandelkorn said of the hefty musical. “Set pieces are incorporated into the action; they move with the scene change.”
Go to ovationmtb@com for more. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $22-$29.
Michael C. Moore is the Arts and Entertainment reporter for The Admiral Theatre Foundation