Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Paramount Theatre

The production runs through January 15, 2023.

By: Nov. 20, 2022
Review: THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Paramount Theatre

The hills are alive and much more.

Paramount Theatre's holiday offering is the last Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaboration - The Sound of Music. Most of the population is familiar with the award winning film starring Julie Andrews and the late, great Christopher Plummer. However, most of the population is not familiar with the 1959 original work which starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain Georg von Trapp. As a performer who has had the opportunity to appear in 2 productions of the original stage version (one this past summer), I admit to a feeling of apprehension when seeing another live production. Will it be the movie version or the original story? Even with the addition of 1 song from the movie and replacing a song with one from the movie, the Paramount stayed true to the original production including not glossing over the Nazi issue (the movie did) which really is the crux of the story. This show is very personal to me. World War 2, the Swastika and Edelweiss are a part of my own history.

Under the guidance and direction of Amber Mak, SOM receives a rousing and uplifting revival true to its origins as a masterpiece of theatrical writing, composition and stagecraft. Then there are the sets. They are actually another character and will blow you away. The party scene towards the end of Act 1 is a sight for the eyes. Stunning. Bravo Jeffrey D. Kmiec! Costumes are designed by Theresa Ham. This production uses the setting and costumes to great effect in telling the story. The orchestra under the direction of Kory Danielson brings this rich and beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein score to new heights. The lighting (Jose Santiago) and the sound (Adam Rosenthal) were expertly interwoven to tell this story.

Now to the historical reason why this show exists. The Nazi invasion of Austria. In Act 2 on stage, we see the level of the Nazi conflict raised to a central role. The movie played this down. During the concert, Nazi soldiers are placed around the stage threateningly. It is chilling. The movie, however, does not go into the philosophical clash between those who will "go along" and those who won't. In the original story written for the stage, that's what breaks up von Trapp and Elsa and it can be heartbreaking.

This engaging cast led by Alicia Kaori (in her Paramount debut) as Maria and Christopher Kale Jones (in his Paramount debut) as the Captain grabs the audience quickly. The audience was clearly enjoying the well known songs and clapping along with the beat of "Do Re Mi". The audience was moved when von Trapp sings Edelweiss, accompanying himself alone on the guitar without the orchestra. "Climb Every Mountain" at the end of Act 1 brings on the tears. Susan Moniz as Mother Abbess using her soaring voice to evoke emotions from deep within. The principal nuns Liz Pazik (Sister Berthe), Harriet Nzinga Plumpp (Sister Sophia) and Sophie Grimm (Sister Margaretta) along with Susan Moniz harmonize beautifully on "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" and their interaction is wonderful to watch. Emilie Lynn's (Elsa Schraeder) portrayal of the wealthy widow who wants the Captain as her next husband shows what a woman of substance, money and power can do. Stephen Schellhardt's (Max Detweiler) portrayal of Max is at times light hearted but he also loves the von Trapp family and wants only the best for them even though he knows it could have horrible consequences for himself. Who wouldn't want a friend like that?

The talented ensemble of the 7 von Trapp children are a joy to behold. Julia Aragon as Liesl (her Paramount debut) and Michael Harp as Rolf work so well together in showing the wonderment of young love and the hurt as well. The interaction of the children makes us believe they are real siblings.

Frau Schmidt (Rengin Altay in her Paramount debut) and Ron E. Rains (Franz) are the executive housekeeper and head butler to the von Trapp family. They have been with the Captain for decades. Frau Schmidt is the one constant in the childrens' lives. Franz has been a right hand man to the Captain and yet he turns against him.

Rodgers and Hammerstein never ran away from an ugly truth. They made their audience think. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway in 1959 - 14 years after the World War. Oscar died in 1960 at the age of 66. His last lyric was "Edelweiss - bless my homeland forever". If you've seen the movie 20 times or maybe ESPECIALLY if you've seen the movie 20 times, but have never seen the show as originally written, this is a show you should see. It is much more nuanced than the movie. Give yourself a present - see it. The Paramount has preserved the original story for us to appreciate and to again give thanks for that incredible duo that was Rodgers and Hammerstein.