Inside 'The Sound of Music' With The Lead Von Trapp Child

By Natalie Boesch
In Culture

On April 26, Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien and The Fabulous Fox will gift us with the premiere of the newest production of “The Sound of Music. I had the opportunity to talk with Paige Silvester, who plays Leisl, the lead Von Trapp child, and the interview further inspired my excitement for the show.

Paige Silvester as Liesl Von Trapp; photo courtesy of The Fox Theatre

Paige Silvester as Liesl Von Trapp; photo courtesy of The Fox Theatre

 

You play the eldest Von Trapp child, Liesl, in “The Sound of Music.” What was the casting process like and how did you get involved in the production?
I actually went to an open call for it at Telsey Casting in New York City. You go to so many of those every week, so you just put it all out there and try to forget about it. I ended up getting a call back, and it happened pretty quickly for me.

But I definitely remember getting the phone call saying that I had gotten the role and that was a big, big thrill. It was a very classic New York story. I was in the subway and I had no service. I got a missed call from their office and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I kind of had a feeling, so I got off the train at completely the wrong stop and ran off and called her in the subway. And there I am, crying in the subway station, and I immediately call my mom and she’s crying. It just feels like such a relief when you finally know that you’re going to get to do what you intended to do. You get to be in a show and not be constantly auditioning. It’s very easy for it to just turn into your job as a professional audition-er and a waitress on the side, so to get to actually be in the show is something that I definitely appreciate and am very thankful for every day.

And you’re working with Director Jack O’Brien.
Yeah, that’s the other biggest thrill of all of it. I mean, the whole team across the board, and the cast, they’re just all exceptional. It’s been a very lucky experience to get to work with them and be inspired by them and feel pushed. I honestly feel like they’re making me better every day. Getting to perform with them and be a part of the rehearsal process with the creative team, it’s just monumental in my life.

A lot of the creative team has won Tony Awards, right?
Jack O’Brien is a three-time Tony Award-winner, and they’ve all had a huge amount of success in their own right, so that’s been exciting. Their process was just, you know, different from anybody else I’ve ever worked with. They were all just founts of knowledge and passion. It was just totally inspiring to be around them.

I grew up watching “The Sound of Music” each year in elementary music class. Did you feel intimidated in any way playing such a classic role?
Totally! I grew up with it, too, and I knew that so many people were so familiar with it, having watched it every year around the holidays.

Navigating that, I tried not to watch it right before we started rehearsal because I didn’t really want to be influenced or swayed by that. I went off my memory of it and tried to be in the same vein so that I did it justice and it wasn’t jarring or anything like that.

But you have to make it your own, so I just tried to go off of Jack O’Brien’s lead. He’s so driven by the text and by the script and excavating every little detail and nugget out of what’s there in the script. So I just tried to always turn back to that and be true to the story and what the authors had written.

I think that’s what we all try to do in this production and what seemed to work to stay true to the story. You find what’s new, but you’re still honoring the important parts of what this story and show are.

How does a stage production of “The Sound of Music” limit or expand the story? What makes this production different from the film that we’re all used to?
I hope that being on stage expands and brings a new life to it because I think that having a live audience is so influential in the experience. I mean, at least for us, every night getting a new audience and getting a different response is so much fun. It becomes like a whole other character and variable in the experience of the show.

There’s nothing like seeing live theater and experiencing a story within a group of people. To feel the energy of the other people around you watching something like that and experiencing it, it’s informative and exciting and a real community experience, especially with a show like this. So I think that really enhances it, and I think our set and our lighting and the direction by Jack is very cinematic and exciting and lush. I don’t think you’ll miss anything that you could get on a movie screen.

What’s your favorite scene or song to perform?
I feel like every time I get asked this I give a different answer. Any of the scenes with the kids I really like because there’s just something so genuine and simple about them and the way that they view doing this. They’re just having fun up there, which is so refreshing. Sometimes when you’re doing it every single day, the same show, you have to find the things that keep it fresh. So I like performing with them on stage every night. And we have a lot of fun off stage, too.

How do you think that this production is going to affect the audience differently than other productions?
With Jack O’Brien’s direction, he really hasn’t shied away from the more serious themes of the show. I think because there are songs that aren’t in the movie that are between the Captain, the Baroness and Uncle Max—we call those the adult songs—they deal pretty directly with the political and social tensions of the time period.

Inherently, because of the differences in the script between the stage production and the movie, there is a lot more seriousness and danger present in our production. I think those moments of tension and the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat moments make the heart-warming, beautiful and happier, more uplifting moments even more so because it’s like a pay-off. .

You can catch “The Sound of Music” at The Fox through May 8. Tickets are on sale and start at $30.

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