Saturday, November 26, 2022

REVIEW: The Sound of Music at Paramount Theatre Now Extended Through January 15, 2023

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By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite musicals of all time, so I was thrilled to see the new production at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. This fabulous show does not disappoint. As director Amber Mak writes in the program notes: “I ask that you allow yourself to release any preconceived notions of what you think of this musical. Please hear this show as if you have never heard it before.”  

From the opening chorale by the nuns of the Abbey to the von Trapps’ inspirational exit through the Alps with the Sisters singing them farewell, the two-and-a-half hour show flies by. (I’ve endured much shorter plays that felt far longer…) 

Alicia Kaori Is a charmer with excellent vocal chops as Maria. One can’t help but fall in love with this Maria, just as the children and Captain von Trapp do. (Curiously, there is very little chemistry between her and the Captain. The romance between them is disappointing. But I relished when she yells,”I’m not finished yet!” to her employer when he is ignoring Maria’s pleas to pay attention to his own children.) Her character building with the children is a highlight, as Maria wins over her young charges by teaching them music can chase away fears, encourage happiness, and bring them closer together as a family. 

The “Do-Re-Mi” number was darling with very clever, exhuberant choreography. Maria’s spunk and enthusiasm cajoles the children into trusting her more than any previous governess, most of whom they delighted into tormenting and chasing off. The choreography was one of the continuing highlights of the show, putting a fresh spin on familiar classics. Maria and the children didn’t have the marionette puppet show for “The Lonely Goatherd,” but playing “Pat-a-cake” on the bed was adorable, especially as the kids are dressed in pastel pajamas in various colors.  

All of the children were delightful, but a special mention needs to be made of Julia Aragon as Liesl. She has a lovely voice and a great presence as the eldest von Trapp. “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” was so darn cute between her and Rolf.  

Susan Moniz as The Mother Abbess raises the roof off the chapel to the heavens with her glorious rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” That was our late mom’s favorite song, so my sister and I were choking back tears, recalling how she’d request the song twice when watching the prerecorded movie at home. 

The costumes by Theresa Ham are glorious, especially the famous curtains-altered-into-kids’-playclothes. But one of the best showstoppers is the set by Jeffrey D. Kmiec which drew actual gasps from the audience. Depicting the Abbey to the Alps to Captain von Trapp’s beautiful home with the grand staircase was impressive. 

Having Nazi guards placed in the balconies of the theater as the von Trapp Family performs their final songs in Austria was creepy but very effective. It’s shocking to see Franz the butler showing his allegiance to the Nazis when he begins wearing the armband with a swastika. And, unfortunately, timely and topical with Jewish headstones recently defaced at a cemetery in Waukegan.  

Hearing a live orchestra, under Kory Danielson’s direction, with the show is a treat. The Paramount Theatre itself (designed by the Rapp Brothers in the late 1920s) is visually stunning and worth the long trek to the ‘burbs. The theater is decked out for the holidays and just beautiful. Many children were in attendance as this is a family-friendly show or a great date show. 

If you want to continue some of the magic and learn interesting backstories, I highly recommend the fascinating book Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution by Todd S. Purdum. I read it last winter, and I loved learning the process of how the celebrated duo chose stories to transform into their legendary musicals, and how they collaborated on songs, even though they weren’t “friends.” They sure were amazing business partners.   

Catherine Hellmann is a daughter of a teacher, an educator herself, and has birthed two teachers and a librarian. She likes reading, and her kids seem to as well. She always wanted to play the role of Maria von Trapp.  


Alicia Kaori plays Maria in Paramount Theatre’s holiday season production, The Sound of Music. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved musical runs November 9, 2022-January 15, 2023 at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.

Tickets: or (630) 896-6666. 

Paramount’s The Sound of Music is directed and choreographed by Amber Mak.

The Sound of Music, one of the most beloved musicals of all time, has enchanted audiences for more than 50 years.

This holiday season, Chicago audiences can experience this unforgettable Rodgers and Hammerstein classic for the first time, or all over again, at downtown Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. 

Previews start November 9, 2022. Press opening is Friday, November 18, at 8 p.m. Due to popular demand, Paramount has extended The Sound of Music beyond its original closing date, January 8, with performances now running an additional week, through January 15, 2022. As usual, Paramount’s lobby will be fully decked out in holiday decorations for the entire run, including a two-story Christmas tree.

The Sound of Music is the classic story of Maria, a care-free nun in training, sent by her convent to be the governess of a Navy captain’s seven children. In her new role as tutor and guardian, Maria finds herself unexpectedly questioning her life path as she falls in love with the entire family, including Captain von Trapp. Music is at the heart of what unites them as they face tough decisions while Austria, their homeland, is on the brink of World War II. Do they stay or do they leave?  

The hills are alive with The Sound of Music song list, performed live by Paramount’s 16-member orchestra, and filled with Rodgers and Hammerstein standards like “Edelweiss,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb E’vry Mountain,” “So, Long, Farewell,” and the title song, “The Sound of Music.” 

The director is Paramount’s own Amber Mak, who has staged so many unforgettable holiday blockbusters in years past, including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, nominated for six Jeff Awards including Best Musical, and The Wizard of Oz, which earned seven Jeff nominations including Best Musical and Best Director. Just wait until you experience Mak’s staging of The Sound of Music, nominated for nine Tony Awards and winner of five, including Best Musical.

Previews start November 9. Opening Night is Friday, November 18, at 8 p.m. Performances run through January 15, 2023: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Exceptions: No 1:30 p.m. matinee on Wednesday, November 9. No show Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving). Added 3 p.m. matinee Friday, November 25. No 8 p.m. show Saturday, December 24 (Christmas Eve). No shows Sunday, December 25 (Christmas). Added 1:30 p.m. matinees Friday, December 23, Thursday, December 29, and Thursday, January 5. No 7 p.m. show Thursday, January 12. 

Single tickets are $28 to $79. Three-show 2022-23 subscriptions including The Sound of Music, Into the Woods and School of Rock are also on sale, starting at just $51. For group discounts to The Sound of Music, contact Melissa Striedl, or (630) 723-2461.

Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Note: The Sound of Music is suggested for ages 5 and up, due to some discriminatory language, depiction of Nazis and images of swastikas.

The Sound of Music is sponsored by Rush Copley Medical Center and Jake’s Inc. The Broadway Series is sponsored by Dunham Foundation, City of Aurora, BMO Harris Bank, ComEd and the Illinois Arts Council.

Paramount’s The Sound of Music: Behind the scenes

Paramount’s The Sound of Music features (top, from left) Alicia Kaori (Maria), Christopher Kale Jones (Captain Georg von Trapp), Susan Moniz (Mother Abbess), Sophie Grimm (Sister Margaretta), Ron E. Rains (Franz), (bottom, from left) Rengin Altay (Frau Schmidt), Emilie Lynn (Elsa Schraeder), Stephen Schellhardt (Max Detweiler), Josh Houghton (Herr Zeller), Michael Ehlers (Admiral von Schreiber) and Michael Harp (Rolf).

Principal cast members for Paramount’s new staging of The Sound of Music are Alicia Kaori (Maria), Christopher Kale Jones (Captain Georg von Trapp), Susan Moniz (Mother Abbess), Sophie Grimm (Sister Margaretta), Ron E. Rains (Franz), Rengin Altay (Frau Schmidt), Emilie Lynn (Elsa Schraeder), Stephen Schellhardt (Max Detweiler), Josh Houghton (Herr Zeller), Michael Ehlers (Admiral von Schreiber) and Michael Harp (Rolf).

Julia Aragon plays Liesl, the eldest von Trapp child, at all performances. The actors playing the younger von Trapp children are double-cast and will rotate performances in two “teams”: 

 (from left) Julia Aragon (Liesl), Ava Barabasz (Gretl), Milla Liss (Brigitta), Savannah Lumar (Marta), Maddie Morgan (Louisa), Gage Richey (Friedrich) and Ezekiel Ruiz (Kurt). 

Ava Barabasz (Gretl), Milla Liss (Brigitta), Savannah Lumar (Marta), Maddie Morgan (Louisa), Gage Richey (Friedrich), and Ezekiel Ruiz (Kurt).

(from left) Julia Aragon (Liesl), Avelyn Choi (Marta), Genevieve Jane (Brigitta),

Charlie Long (Kurt), Kara Reese (Louisa), Lena Soszynski (Gretl) and Brody Tyner (Friedrich).

Avelyn Choi (Marta) Genevieve Jane (Brigitta), Charlie Long (Kurt), Kara Reese (Louisa), Lena Soszynski (Gretl) and Brody Tyner (Friedrich).

The ensemble is Lexie Bailey, Rodrigo Ignacio Cruz, Adam Fane, Margot Frank, Carisa Gonzalez, Michael Kingston, Jake DiMaggio Lopez, Maggie Malaney, Luke Nowakowski, Liz Pazik, Harriet Nzinga Plumpp, Maya Rowe, Nellie Shuford and Shelbi Voss. Covers for the child roles are Juliana Filapek (Louisa), Layla Joan (Brigitta/Marta), Kirin Pauline (Friedrich) and Elias Totleben (Kurt). 

The full production team is Amber Mak, director and choreographer; Kory Danielson, music director and conductor; Jeffrey D. Kmiec, scenic designer; Theresa Ham, costume designer; José Santiago, lighting designer; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; Peter Ruiz, dramaturg; Jamie Anderson, associate director; Lexie Bailey, associate choreographer; Kailey Rockwell, associate music director and associate conductor; Daniel J. Hanson, stage manager; and Erin Nicole Eggers and Matthew Silar, assistant stage managers. 

Mak’s Paramount directing and choreography credits include Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, Elf, Hairspray and Rock of Ages. She was also the choreographer for Paramount’s world premiere of The Secret of My Success.

“Thank you for supporting live theater as we continue to emerge from when our doors were closed and our stages were dark. The artists, artisans and staff of the theater are very much like the edelweiss of the mountains, blooming out of the dark with new life, vibrancy, determination, resilience, love and radical appreciation to continue to create beauty together in the world,” wrote Mak in her director’s note. ”I ask that you allow yourself to release any preconceived notions of what you think of this musical. Please hear this show as if you have never heard it before. Although this piece was written 63 years ago about events that happened 84 years ago, the story feels as contemporary and poignant as ever in our current world.” 

The Sound of Music was the last musical written by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics). Hammerstein died of stomach cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere. The book, by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, is based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” The original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened in 1959 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, out of nine nominations. It was adapted as a 1965 film musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Special Events

Pay What You Can Performances

Thursday, November 10, 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 12, 3 p.m.

Paramount is offering two Pay What You Can performances of The Sound of Music: Thursday, November 10, at 7 p.m, and Saturday, November 12 at 3 p.m. Both days, starting at 10 a.m., visit the Paramount Theatre box office in-person to request tickets. Limit four per person. See for details. 

Access Services

Paramount will offer open and closed captioning during the added matinee, Thursday, January 5 at 1:30 p.m.

The performance on Friday, January 6, at 8 p.m., will be interpreted in American Sign Language.

Paramount offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device.

If you require wheelchair or special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or in advance.

Paramount Theatre’s Covid-19 commitment to and safety and protocol

Paramount Theatre has followed, and will continue to follow, the requirements of the State of Illinois and the Kane County Health Department. Therefore, Paramount is following the guidance of the State of Illinois and recommends, but no longer requires, masks, proof of vaccination or negative COVID test for patrons. Mask wearing is strongly encouraged, but will be optional. For complete details, please read Paramount’s full Covid Policy. 

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