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posted: 7/18/2013 9:59 AM

'Sound of Music' hits all the high notes at Paramount

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There's a happy reunion taking place at the Paramount Theatre this weekend involving famous songs, characters, storylines and the people who love seeing them together again -- which is just about everybody.

Like familiar friends, they'll gather in celebration and stage one of the most popular, endearing musicals in the world, "The Sound of Music."

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This classic masterpiece hits the stage for four shows Friday through Sunday, as the Fox Valley Park District's Summer Stage program showcases a cast of 115 performers from age 6 to adult who will bring to life the story made famous by the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, July 19; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20; and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 21. Tickets are $7-13 and available at www.paramountaurora.org or by calling (630) 896-6666.

"It's one of those extraordinary shows that everybody is familiar with," said Kyle Donahue, performing arts manager. "While the story has a serious edge, it also shows how uplifting music can be, and how it brings joy into the world. It's a super-memorable show."

Most of the songs are famous, and all are singable, including "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Edelweiss" and the title number.

Set in the mountains of Austria, "The Sound of Music" tells the true story of the Von Trapp Family Singers. Struggling to contain her personality within the convent walls, Maria Rainer, a novice nun, is sent off to take care of the seven troublesome Von Trapp children as their new governess.

Through her kindness and singing, Maria is able to win the affections of the family -- including the cold and stern Captain Von Trapp.

Soon after marrying, the Captain, Maria and the family find themselves on the brink of World War II and must flee the country to escape the Nazis in what is a thrilling finale to the show.

It might be difficult to duplicate the Austrian Alps at the Paramount -- and the cavernous echoes that make one's singing voice sound so beautiful as a result. But each show will be rich with songs and sound, featuring a children's festival chorus and a live orchestra of 25 players -- including a real-life harp player.

Ashlynn Seehafer of St. Charles -- a sophomore-to-be at North Central College -- will play the leading role as Maria Rainer while Mark Plummer, an associate professor of music at Aurora University, is cast at Captain Von Trapp.

This is the 43rd year for Summer Stage, and Arlene Hawks has directed more than half of those performances. In fact, 23 years ago, Hawks directed this timeless classic at the Paramount. A spirited leader for local arts, Hawks' journey has come full circle -- and it continues.

Like those who preceded them nearly a quarter-century ago, this generation of performers will live a larger-than-life experience when they stop on the Paramount stage -- magic memories in the making -- for both them and the audience.

"With all its history, nostalgia and the celebrities who have performed there, it's an amazing experience," said Donahue. "We are very blessed to have a venue like the Paramount in our community."

Just like "The Sound of Music," it's the emotional heart that's made Summer Stage so successful. And it's all on display this weekend.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.

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