How sweet The Sound at Paper Mill

By Meredith Napolitano, MCTV Teen Writer


The Mill is alive with the sound of music - the Paper Mill Playhouse, that is. Opening night's performance of "The Sound of Music" at the Millburn theater earned a well-deserved standing ovation from an audience that was purely moved by this joyous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

The story revolves around Maria, a free-spirited aspiring nun who becomes governess to the seven-child von Trapp family ruled by a stern captain.

Broadway and regional theater star/director Robert Cuccioli returns to Paper Mill to own the role of Capt. Von Trapp. From the moment we first see him, his command and intense presence emerge, as does the three-dimensional character he has created. We see all sides of him - from his incipient aloofness, to his bursts of bottled up anger, to the tenderness that finally defines him at the end as he falls in love with Maria.

Amanda Watkins (of Broadway's "Urinetown" and "Cabaret") brings to life a wonderfully different Maria than we are used to. Most of us are probably accustomed to Julie Andrews in the role, but Watkins brings out the quality of Maria that allows her to mesh with the children so well. As Mother Abbess says, "She's a girl."

Watkins' connection to the Von Trapp children is sincere and earnest. She has many moments where her sheer youth and freshness are elicited. However, at times she is too contemporary. She gets laughs for modernizing some lines, but it is her investment in the children that makes her so admirable.

Equally delightful are the children. Little Gretl (Caroline London) looks a mere 4 years old, and her six siblings increase in height and age by one or two years. Liesl (Elizabeth Lundberg) has the proper shyness and coyness to exhibit her confused feelings of love and growing up. However, "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" might have been better if more props, such as benches, were used, not just executed in front of the house drop.

Although the somewhat fuzzy microphones were a distraction at times, one ensemble combated the issue and rocked the house: the nuns of the abbey. They stole the show and had the vocal quality of a professional a cappella choir. Perhaps the most superior nun was Mother Abbess (Meg Bussert), whose credits include a Tony nomination for "Brigadoon" on Broadway. Her voice is superb, and one cannot help but be cajoled by her kind words
of wisdom to the confused Maria.

Michael Anania's scenic designs take us directly to the Swiss Alps - three-dimensional climbing rocks, in addition to beautiful drops, are included in the set.

Despite a long performance, the show is still entertaining for all ages. This musical, running through Dec. 14, is a must-see for anyone who simply wants to "remember his favorite things."

Meredith Napolitano is a freshman at New York University.

published with permission of  The Paper Mill Theatre