On May 7th and 8th, Hesperia had a special treat: Arts Connections/Innovations and Off Main Street Productions combined their expertise to bring Rogers & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" to Hesperia. This establishes that — with proper guidance and venue — we have ample local talent in town to make the lyrics "the hills are alive with the sound of music" ring true.


It's easy to get teary eyed from the inspiring story of the real-life von Trapp family who began a musical touring group after Navy Captain Geog von Trapp fell in love with the novice Maria; and, with his seven children, left their Austrian homeland when the jackboots of World War II arrived. But seeing this classic performed so admirably by ordinary local people brought tears of appreciation and joy to those in the audience last weekend. We watched our own personal civic family form and temporarily convert the entire sanctuary at Hesperia's United Methodist Church into a stage.


When Dr. Robert Sprague came to Hesperia to establish his non-profit organization dedicated to all branches of the arts; he brought us his training at Julliard, his National Music Award, his teaching ability, flare for conducting, and his love for the arts. The Rev. Bob Wicherts tells us this was the third play by Dr. Sprague at his church. These performances are not religious in content but they have inspired an ecumenical spirit of cooperation with other local churches. Pride in the knowledge of a job well done was evident and after the performance, several of the young players told me they learned about this opportunity to perform from Dr. Sprague their music teacher. They are ready for more.


You'll remember the opening scene when the nun-in-training Maria (ours was played by Amanda Graley) made her appearance by singing to the hills as she relished the beauty of the local landscape. In the meantime, the sisters back at the Abbey where singing "What do you do with someone like Maria?" This performance brought us a suggestion of the Austrian Alps with a suggestion of movable spot sets created by Darin Grebel's scenery class at Sultana High School. Lacking a Broadway budget, but knowing what was needed to help the audience use their imaginations, a young actor carried a hand-painted sign across the stage to announce the next act. The cast filled in as needed with the stage crew to move props and back screens to the piano accompaniment by Kelly LaMar and Diann Puryear and the drum beat of Yasha Phililps.


Sets and transitions were low-keyed but accomplished with such care and creativity the understatement was captivating and charming. The Producer Dr Sprague and his team planned for every detail including providing the services of signer Karen Prestwood for the hearing impaired in the audience.


Robin Hill and Darlene Velasquez, as director and choreographer, did so well to train the actors that Robin was able to join the play as The Baroness who, regardless of her poise and beauty, we came to dislike because of her cattiness.


The young actors who played the von Trapp seven were charmingly naughty when they resisted Maria, but when she sang her way into their hearts with inviting performances of "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" their acting skills showed us they were learning to love and accept her. Uncle Max played by Jerrold Ridenour helped the children demonstrate to the stiff and severe Captain, played by John Fisher, that children and adults both need play time.


Aaron Phillips as the middle child Kurt was the perfect ham for this part showing he deserved the teasing kick-in-the-pants from Brigitta. At the performance I attended, Jessica Davis was so lovable as little Gretl that she was the actor to receive the flower accolade at the end of the performance. And when John Fisher sang "Edelweiss" it was not certain that this love song was for the fatherland, a favorite flower, or the outpouring of a heart overflowing with love.


Dakota Brooks who played Rolf, the sweetheart of Liesl von Trapp, performed by Leeanne Anderson, were well cast for their song and dance "I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen."And Dakota was convincing when his charter Rolf cooled the relationship by abandoning his Austrian roots and becoming an armband-wearing Nazi. In off-stage life Dakota teaches guitar. His smooth moves are probably a natural talent but he attributes his successful acting début to the experience of working with this team.


When Mother Abbess, played alternately by Bobbi Meikel and Shawn Philips (when they weren't filling the role of Sister Agatha) encouraged Maria to follow her heart; and when this Head Mother sang "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" she communicated something special to the audience. She was inspiring all of us to reach for the dreams in our hearts too.


Note: Others not mentioned previously: David Anderson as Herr Zeller, Rob Gore as Franz; Special Assistants: Gayle Anderson and Iva D'Agostino, Technical; David Anderson and Ron Murphy; Ushers: Robin Huntington, Kathy Moody, and Sophie Steeno. Louisa was played by Hana Pareja, Friedrich by Andrew Garcia and Matthew Kelly and Marta by Nicole Courseault and Summer Johnson.