Musical with ‘timeless appeal’ opening Friday at Granite Theatre

Musical with ‘timeless appeal’ opening Friday at Granite Theatre


"The Sound of Music" will open at the Granite Threatre on Friday, with, standing from left, Spencer Stanley, Andrew Faria, Stephanie Rodger, Rochelle Weinrauch as Maria and Grace Gilbert, and seated from left, Chloe Morehouse, Bobbie Doherty (on lap), Bill Martuscello as Captain Von Trapp and Brigid Fitzgerald. | (Christine Corrigan / The Westerly Sun)

WESTERLY — As the sun set one evening last week, casting peaceful, golden shadows on downtown Westerly, one big white house at the top of Granite Street was bursting with life.

It was rehearsal night for “The Sound of Music” at the Granite Theatre and people of all ages were filling the building with action and sound.

With just days to go until opening night, set for Friday, the musical, with its enormous cast, is in the midst of full rehearsals. A chorus of female voices coming from the top floor blended with the sound of children’s laughter and floated outside into the evening air.

Upstairs, onstage, the actresses in the roles of Mother Abbess and her nuns were singing “How do you Solve a Problem like Maria.”

Downstairs, the children cast as the von Trapp siblings were noisily waiting to try on their costumes.

Elena Fusaro, a second-grader at Springbrook School, wearing a pair of sparkly, silver sequined sneakers, twirled around and around a lally column while chatting away with Michaela Pendola, a junior at Westerly High School, who plays the role of Luisa.

“I really like the beginning part when we all march to Maria,” said Elena, grinning from ear to ear.

“I love the first time we meet Maria and sing ‘Do, a Deer,’” said Pendola as she danced around the room.

The girls are part of the children’s “Cast B.” With the demands of the production, and the time required for each rehearsal and performance, there are two teams of child actors — A and B — which makes for more than 20 youngsters in the show.

Given the number of actors, costumes and songs, and the complexity of the set, the musical is an enormous show for any theater group to produce.

For David Jepson, the artistic director of the Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the producing entity at the Granite Theatre of Westerly, the time was right to share the story — one of the most beloved musicals written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and their final collaboration — with Westerly area audiences. Jepson said he last directed the musical in 1999 when he was with the City Nights Theatre in Pawtucket.

“It’s got such audience appeal and it’s timeless,” said Jepson, who directs the show. “It continues to stir the emotions.”

One of the most popular musicals of all time, the story is based on the true story of the Trapp family singers.

“I still get choked up at some of the scenes,” added Jepson. “No matter how many times I’ve seen them they still bring tears to my eyes.”

The cast includes 27 characters — 11 of them children (well more than 20 for this production) — and 49 costumes, seven for each child.

“We had to buy a new rack for all of them,” said Beth Jepson, as she reached for a dress for Rochelle Weinrauch, who plays Maria, the high-spirited novitiate who captures the heart of the stern Capt. von Trapp and his children.

“It’s my dream role,” said Weinrauch, “it’s a nice juicy role to sink my teeth into.”

Weinrauch, who owns Simply Enchanted — a Westerly-based company that sends princesses and fairytale characters to children’s birthdays and other special events — is used to dressing up and playing roles. She’s played Rapunzel, Snow White, Mary Poppins and Cinderella, but the role of Maria holds a special place in her heart.

“My dad was born in Austria, right outside Salzburg,” she said. “So this is pretty exciting for me and my family.”

For Bill Maruscello, who plays Capt. von Trapp, the play is a family affair. His 10-year old daughter Maria plays one of the Martas, in Cast B.

“It’s a wonderful challenging role,” said Maruscello, who by day works as a quality analyst at Pfizer. “And to be able to do it with my daughter is a treat, as is having David as a director. He is a thoughtful, supportive director.”

Nearby, Maruscello’s daughter, a third-grader at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School, waited to try on her costume, a blue and white middy blouse. “My real favorite part is sitting backstage and listening to Elsa, Max and my dad singing,” she said. “I really like when they sing ‘No Way to Stop.’”

David Jepson directs the show with Stephen DeCesare as the musical director and Lisa Clough as the choreographer. In addition to Weinrauch and Martuscello the cast includes Dale Magnuson as Mother Abbess, Ed Benjamin III as Max, Anna Armagno as Elsa, Max Leatham as Rolf, Stephanie Rodger as Liesl, Denise Lacharite, John Lamar, Sharon Mars, Lorie Olsen, Chantel Reardon, Mandy Solis and Patricia Spencer Smith. The von Trapp children are played by Andrew Faria, Spencer Stanley and, in Cast A, Grace Gilbert, Brigid Fitzgerald, Chloe Morehouse and Bobbie Doherty; and in Cast B, Michaela Pendola, Chloe Kolbenheyer, Maria Martuscello and Elena Fusaro.

The show opens Friday and runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 17.

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