While it will thrill many to see Paige Silvester on the Community Center Theater stage as Liesl in the national touring production of “The Sound of Music,” none will be surprised.
Silvester grew up in Sacramento, training and performing on stages across the region, always displaying an uncommon talent and charm. After graduating from Loretto High School in 2009, she attended the University of Michigan, earning a BFA in musical theater in 2013 before moving to New York. In 2014 she joined the national tour of “Evita” and last year was selected to originate Liesl for legendary director Jack O’Brien’s new national touring production of “The Sound of Music.”
Liesl is the oldest of the singing Von Trapp children in the classic 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which also became a much-loved film. She has an important song in the musical, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” which describes her complex feelings of approaching maturity and young womanhood.
Silvester spoke by phone from the tour stop in Oklahoma City, before heading to Tempe, Ariz., and then coming to Sacramento, where she will stay with her family while the show is here. Silvester, who has been on tour with “Sound of Music” for just over a year, said life on the road “has its ups and downs.”
“Some weeks you just wish you could stay put somewhere you are, but on the whole I’m really enjoying it,” she said. She was a professional before she ever left Sacramento, having performed at the Music Circus in 2006’s “A Little Night Music” as Fredrika Armfeldt, Snow White in 2009’s “Into the Woods” and Liesl in the 2008 “The Sound of Music.”
It’s fun to be a part of a legacy
Paige Silvester on playing Liesl in “The Sound of Music”
“Until then, I’d never been in the show, never played one of the younger kids, it was a lot of fun to finally be a part of it,” Silvester said. She acknowledged, however, having seen the movie a few times while growing up and even performing a developmental stage “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with her brother around their house. She now shares her performance with thousands of people each week.
“It’s fun to be a part of a legacy and bring it to even more people,” Silvester said. “A lot of people have a personal feeling about the show and the material. I was also very surprised by how many have never seen the show or the movie.”
What can be startling to newcomers to the play is the intensity of the material, which belies its often sparkling, gauzy imagery. It’s set in Austria in 1938, when fascism is on the rise, and the family must eventually stage a dangerous escape from the invading Nazis.
“That’s something that our production in particular has tried to address really head on,” Silvester said.
“Our director, Jack O’Brien, really tried to go back into the text so that we weren’t just relying on the nostalgia of the show and the beauty of the music and the cute kids – we definitely have all that, but he hasn’t shied away from the more serious themes. It really takes you on a more complete journey.”
Two-time Tony winner O’Brien has an extensive résumé that cuts across theater genres: classical dramas, new musicals and operas.
“He has great reputation and lives up to it and surpasses it completely,” Silvester said. “He wasn’t just feeding it to us, and I think that’s probably why he’s had so much success and is so highly regarded. He was really into a collaborative experience about it all. We really all did get to come in and create together.”
Silvester was most impressed with O’Brien’s unlimited font of new ideas and willingness to question situations and look for new solutions to common problems.
“The Sound of Music” is based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.”
She was prepared to work with someone like O’Brien, she said, because of her training and experience.
“I am so lucky to have grown up in the Sacramento artistic and theatrical community, it’s so strong,” Silvester said.
“I’ve had a ton of support from the theaters around town – STC, Music Circus, B Street Theatre, all of the teachers who took me under their wing – I pay a huge credit to them. I had wonderful role models,” she said.
“They showed me that this could be a real career. So that was a huge lesson, that’s just the way I thought of it from day one.”
The Sound of Music
What: The national touring production, directed by Jack O’Brien, with Sacramento native Paige Silvester as Liesl
When: Opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26; continues through the matinee on Nov. 6 with shows at 8 p.m. except for Sunday, Oct. 30 (7:30 p.m.) and no shows on Monday, Oct. 31; 2 p.m. matinees on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Where: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento
Information: 916-808-5181, 916-557-1999, BroadwaySacramento.com