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Paulanne Simmons

The Sound of Music Can Be Heard in Millburn New Jersey

The Sound of Music
Directed by James Brennan
Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ
From Nov. 23, 2012
Tickets: $26-$97 (973) 376-4343 or www.papermill.org
Closes Dec. 30, 2012
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 25, 2012

Written in 1959, "The Sound of Music" was Rodgers and Hammerstein"s final musical. Unlike other musicals written by this celebrated team, it does not have a book by Hammerstein. Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse wrote the book, perhaps because the show's Broadway producers had originally envisioned it as a play by by Lindsay and Crouse, with several of the songs the Trapp Family Singers had actually performed and maybe a few more songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Fortunately, the producers changed their mind. "The Sound of Music" has one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most beloved scores, including standards such as "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Do-Re-Mi," and the title song "The Sound of Music."

Since its original production, "The Sound of Music" has had many revivals both in the United States and abroad. It has also been made into a film in which Julie Andrews took over the lead role of Maria, originally played by Mary Martin and Christopher Plummer plays Captain Georg von Trapp, originally portrayed by Theodore Bikel.

This season Paper Mill Playhouse is once again reviving the classic, with the charming couple played by another charming couple, Elena Shaddow as Maria and Ben Davis as Georg. The show also features a troupe of talented youngster, some of whom got the gig through open auditions, but all of whom perform like pros. The almost evil Rolf, a messenger turned Nazi, is played by Anthony Fedorov, season four "American Idol" finalist.

It's hard to go wrong with "The Sound of Music," but director and choreographer James Brennan certainly deserves credit for getting everything right: the humor, the drama, the danger, the love, and of course, the music.

Set designer James Fouchard manages to give us the inside and the outside of the von Trapp home, plus a glimpse of the towering Alps, which function as the real muse for Maria and the von Trapps.

Davis is a romantic hero from the old school. He's good-looking, dignified and noble. He lets us know Georg has a bit of trouble showing his emotions but also that beneath his manly chest there beats a passionate heart. Shaddow has the perfect blend of temerity
and innocence. She also has a gorgeous voice.

Donna English as Georg's fiancée, Elsa Schraeder, and Broadway veteran Edward Hibbert as Max Detweiler, a von Trapp family friend, succeed in the difficult job of being villainous but not so vile they cannot have a few good songs.

When "The Sound of Music" opened, many reviewers believed the show was far too sweet and sentimental to be taken seriously. The public did not have the same opinion. They knew there are times we all need to be reminded to "climb every mountain."

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