Any list of the greatest American musicals includes Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s last collaboration “The Sound of Music” (1959 Broadway premiere with Mary Martin) based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” The story of Maria Rainier and her marriage to Captain von Trapp and his seven children as Hitler takes over the nation has been retold on the stages of the world continuously ever since.
The 1965 film, with Julie Andrews, won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and displaced “Gone with the Wind” as the highest-grossing film of all-time. Many of the fans of the film have viewed it hundreds of times.
Now, if you think your familiarity with this musical masterpiece would in any way diminish your pleasure, dismiss the thought; this is a fabulous production by the highly creative team at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Typical of the Paper Mill’s past musical revivals, this version of “The Sound of Music, directed and choreographed by James Brennan, is Broadway quality at every level from outstanding veteran Broadway performers, to musicians, sets, costumes, and lighting.
The thrill of live theater begins in the very earliest moments of the play when the Nuns of Nonnberg Abbey sing the Preludium followed directly by Elena Shaddow as Maria singing the award-winning title song. Shaddow is a fine, attractive Maria with a superior voice. She is particularly effective in the scenes at the Abbey with the Mother Abbess, played warmly by the magnificent voiced Suzanne Ishee, and with the children, in the audience favorites “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely Goatherd.”
The other adult leads are also very impressive. Ben Davis as the handsome Captain Georg von Trapp who resists the German offerings the only way possible; Edward Hibbert provides humor as Max Detweiler even as he courts the Germans in hopes of surviving the fast changing, dark, world of the Nazis; Donna English as Elsa Schraeder, the rich Viennese socialite who accepts this new world order the invading Germans represent.
The seven von Trapp children are excellent from the oldest to the youngest; Chelsea Morgan Stock as Liesl, Gracie Beardsley as Marta, Greta Clark as Gretl, Maya Fortgang as Brigitta, Amanda Harris as Louisa, Hunter A. Kovacs as Kurt and Sean McManus as Friedrich. Serving the von Trapps are Robert DuSold as Franz and Joy Franz as Frau Schmidt. “American Idol” finalist Anthony Fedorov as Rolf Gruber, the young postman and willing Nazi recruit.
Also in the cast are: Ashley Kate Adams, Duke Anderson, Allison Blackwell (Sister Sophia), Christopher Carl (Admiral von Schreiber), Jonathan Charette, Christine Cornell, Patrick David, Margaret Dietrich, Maggie Finnegan, Osborn Focht (Herr Zeller), Kera Halbersleben, Jenavene Hester, Dennis Holland (Baron Elberfeld), Norah Long, Robin Lounsbury, Anna McCarthy, Jeannie Shubitz (Sister Margaretta), Adam Soniak, Chris Stevens, Mary Stout (Sister Berthe), Sally Ann Swarm and Nadine Zahr (Baroness Elberfeld).
The other musical highlights in “The Sound of Music” are the emotional “Edelweiss” as sung by Ben Davis (Capt. von Trapp) in the concert hall under a threatening swastika emblazoned banner as the Nazis arrive to escort him to a German naval base; “My Favorite Things” sung by Elena Shaddow (Maria) and Suzanne Ishee (Mother Abbess) in the Abbey; the stirring “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” by Suzanne Ishee (Mother Abbess); “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with the young lovers Chelsea Morgan Stock (Liesl) and Anthony Fedorov (Rolf); and “How do you solve a problem like Maria” with Mary Stout (Sister Berthe), Allison Blackwell (Sister Sophia), Jeannie Shubitz (Sister Margaretta) and Suzanne Ishee (Mother Abbess).
Director/Choreographer James Brennan’s team includes:Tom Helm Music Director; Scenic Designer James Fouchard; Costume Coordinator Amanda Seymour; Lighting Designer F. Mitchell Dana; Sound Designer Randy Hansen; and Hair/Wig Design Leah Loukas. Matthew DiCarlo is the Production Stage Manager.
For every lover of this America classic this is a must see event. For those who simply love live musical theater this is a spectacular treat for both the eye and the ear. The Sound of Music will run at the Millburn, New Jersey, theater to December 30, 2012. It will be performed eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Please watch the excellent video of highlights of the Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of “The Sound of Music.”
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio November 25, 2012
Single tickets range from $26 to $97. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.papermill.org. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted Groups of ten or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680.