The Hills Are Alive...


I don't think I need to say more, you SHOULD know what I am talking about.

Though not the first movie I ever saw, it The Sound of Music was the first movie I saw from a balcony when I was very young.  (I may not have even been in elementary school yet.)  I remember my mom took me and (I believe) my friend Sandy.  I think we arrived a little late, the theater was already dark and the movie may have already started.  (This was a long time ago.)  Back in that century, movies were often re-leased, so this would not have been the film's first go round.  I saw it again when I was older (though still pretty young) at a movie theater that was closer to my house.  I had been called in by the television commercial which showed Julie Andrews walking down the long church aisle in her ivory wedding dress.

My mother had the original Broadway album, as well as the movie soundtrack.  For my 7th birthday (I think) I got a cassette recorder (how’s that for old school?) and The Sound of Music was one of the first tapes I got and I listened to it ALOT.

Whenever the movie is on tv, I tune in, even though I have the film on DVD with a multitude of extras. I've watched the tv production (The Sound of Music Live!) with Carrie Underwood which gave me a better idea of what differences there were between the stage show and the movie.  (I already was well aware of the differences between the actual life of the Von Trapp family and the dramatized version having read both books written by Maria Von Trapp many years ago.  VERY different, as reality often is, but still very moving.)

So you get the idea that I'm really into the The Sound of Music, right?

Over the weekend, my family and I finally saw the show at the Paper Mill Playhouse.  We had excellent seats (center section, less than 10 rows back).  To say I was excited is an understatement.  I was also quite emotional as it brought back memories of my mom. (So yes, I cried through the opening two scenes as well as the final scene of act one, even though "Climb Every Mountain" has never been a favorite or moved me.  It moved me to tears twice; Caitlin Burke captured the song and the part of Mother Abbess perfectly.) I don't think I have ever seen a bad production at the Paper Mill (I've seen many over the years, although hardly as many as I would have liked), and this one may have topped the list.  The lighting and the sets were amazing.  The orchestra under the direction of Meghann Zervoulis Bate was wonderful.  Every single performer was spot on; not a weak link anywhere.  (And when dealing with a large cast with children you expect a weak link or two.)

I'll admit my own bias when it came to the color blind casting of the show. (I don't like to admit it, but need to be honest.)   However, this cast was so strong within minutes all I could focus on was the incredible talent on stage.  (I was particularly blown away by Coleman Simmons as Friedrich.)

While I love the movie, I've never been a fan of Christopher Plummer's performance as Captain von Trapp.  Why did Maria love him?  He was such a cold (pardon me) ass.  I just never "got it."  Not the case with Graham Rowat; he was stern, but never a complete jerk and you could see his transformation back into a loving father and man that Maria could love.  (Not to mention the fact that his voice was incredible.)  Furthermore, while I like Eleanor Parker (as the Baroness) and Richard Haydn (as Max Detweiler) in the movie, I've always felt their characters (particularly the Baronesses) were undeveloped.  The stage production gives them songs to sing (which Emily Borromeo and Gavin Lee do impeccably) and the parts are more fleshed out.    The Baroness is not just a charming bitch, but a (wealthy) woman trying to survive in a man's world.  Gavin Lee, makes you understand that Max isn't just using the Captain's friendship to benefit his own life (although that is certainly part of it), but that he truly cares for him and his family.  Everything makes more sense when the stage production allows this characters to be part of the whole story and gives us an understanding (if we didn't already) of what was going on in their world at the time.

With the rest of the audience, I stood (despite my bum knee...yes it still bothers me three weeks later) to applaud this wonderful cast.  If I could I would have seen it again (and again).  During an awful year for my family, this was definitely a highlight, which perhaps one of the best gifts that this amazing cast and crew gave us.  (And will probably never know.)

Funnily enough, last night I turned on the tv and guess what was playing?  Did I watch?  Of course I did.  For me The Sound of Music, whether it be the movie or theater is a classic full of hope that I always need.  

 (Note:  photo at the head of this blog post is taken from the Paper Mill Playhouse website)


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