By Sally Birks Herald Writer
LEAVENWORTH — The warm nighttime breeze carries a sweet scent from the sugar pines and the evening sky turns dusky navy blue as the hills around this alpen village come alive with the sound of music.
Yes, the real “Sound of Music,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical story of the Austrian von Trapp family that has captivated audiences for more than 50 years as a play and then as a movie.
This is the 19th year that the Leavenworth Summer Theater has presented “The Sound of Music” in its woodsy outdoor amphitheater high on Ski Hill park just north of the town.
Audience members are greeted and seated by the “nuns” from the abbey.
The trumpeting of an alpenhorn, spotlighted on a hill above the stage and echoing off the surrounding mountains, signals the opening of the play.
After the overture by the 10-piece orchestra, the stage lights come up on the slick new turntable set that allows for easy scene changes, and the nuns in the Nonnberg Abbey begin the story of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria.”
Maria, played by Jenness Klein-Schrenzel, is the spirited young postulant sent off to learn about life outside the convent walls as a governess to the seven children of a strict Austrian navy captain.
Klein-Schrenzel has big shoes to fill in the role so identified with Julie Andrews, but her lilting voice and engaging stage presence are more than up to the challenge in this professional production.
Many of the actors and chilren as well as the musicians and stage crew are from the Leavenworth area.
College students from Central Washington University, the University of Washington, Whitworth University, the University of Northern Colorado and Pepperdine University fill in the cast and crew.
And Klein-Schrenzel and her husband, Julian Schrenzel, who plays Captain Georg von Trapp, are from the Seattle area.
As the play progresses through the charming musical numbers by the children and the night sky grows darker, we’re distracted (only momentarily) by the millions of stars overhead.
The wind picks up, rustling the trees, as if on cue as the play reaches its dramatic climax when the Trapp family bids “So Long, Farewell” to their beloved Austria now occupied by Germans.
In addition to presenting “The Sound of Music” every year in this perfect setting, the Leavenworth Summer Theater company does two other plays every summer and another tradition, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” during the holidays.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Footloose” continue along with “The Sound of Music” through August on Tuesdays through Saturdays, with the only Sunday performance of “The Sound of Music” on Sept. 1.
“Joseph” is performed at Hatchery Park and “Footloose” is on the Festhalle Theater stage in downtown Leavenworth. “It’s a Wonderful Life” will also play at FestHall Theater on three weekends in December.
Book early because tickets go fast.
The two-hour hop over Stevens Pass to this Bavarian village is beautiful any time of the year, and glorious in summer.
If you don’t want to drive, however, Amtrak now stops in Leavenworth. And of course there are inns and motels and plenty of German vittles.
If you go
Leavenworth Ski Hill Amphitheater: 10698 Ski Hill Drive
Hatchery Park Amphitheater: 7919 E. Leavenworth Road
Leavenworth FestHalle Theater: 1001 Front St.
Parking: Free at all the venues. There’s a shuttle from the parking area to the Ski Hill amphitheater if needed.
Reserved tickets: $30, $25 and $14. Call the box office at 509-548-2000, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Accomodations: Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce has information at www.leavenworth.org.