Kenai Performers get ready to take to the stage this weekend

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

The Kenai Performers will make the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium come alive with the sound of music as they present the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic beginning Friday at 8 p.m.

"The Sound of Music" cast combines talented acting, dancing and singing with a timeless script, engaging characters and an unforgettable musical score to create a show that is enjoyed by children and adults.

"It's a show that has so many special moments and points of interest in it, from Maria's experience in church to the family's experience of embracing music again to the romance between Capt. von Trapp and the governess to the love they felt for their country," said Crista Cady, who plays the character of Maria Rainer. "And it's no accident that Carol Ford, being the storyteller that she is, is able to read into the dialogue the intensity you might not get at first glance."

Ford, who is directing the show, had originally planned to do a musical called "My Favorite Year." But when she was forced to postpone it until next year, she found "The Sound of Music" to be a popular replacement.

"Everyone wanted to do 'Sound of Music,'" she said. "I got a lot of enthusiasm for it and thought 'that's the one for this year.' We had a tremendous turnout for try-outs and that indicated to me that people are also the classics here. And we've had a blast with it."

Auditions for the musical were held Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 2. Around 230 children and adults auditioned for roles. The turnout of children alone was impressive, Ford said. But one of the disadvantages to casting "The Sound of Music" is that there aren't many roles for children -- only the seven von Trapp children.


Brigitta, left, played by Maya Chay, Gretl (Selia Butler) and Louisa (Jackie Palm) von Trapp wish their father's party guests a musical good night.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

"Either you're in or you're out, there's no town scene or something for a lot of kids to be in," Ford said. "It was really heartbreaking for me at auditions."

The children who were cast for von Trapp roles range in ages from 7 to teen-age and have definitely lived up to their responsibilities as cast members.

"These kids are fantastic," Ford said. "One of the things children actors need to work on is focus -- can they hold it? And they do hold it. These kids have incredible attention spans. They've focused really well on their characters "

Since being cast in the von Trapp children roles, the actors have had to give give months of week nights and weekends to the show, sometimes rehearsing until 11:30 p.m.

"I knew there would be late nights because my sister was in a previous play, but it's been getting later and later," said Jackie Palm, 13, who plays Louisa von Trapp "Homework is hard to get done. But I'm glad I'm in it. It's pretty cool -- I get to act for the first time."

It may be all the hours rehearsing together, or that some of the cast members are related in real life, but the von Trapp children project a noticeable bond with each other on stage that makes them even more endearing.


Capt. von Trapp, played by Doug McAuliffe, Elsa Schraeder (Renee Duncan) and Max Detweiler (Bob Mabrey) sing a tongue-in-cheek song about the challenges of love between millionaires.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

"They all fell into the part of being siblings really naturally," Cady said. "They're always hugging each other and playing with each other's hair and sharing food."

The adult cast members do more than justice to their roles, as well. They have all worked to read between the lines of the dialogue and make their characters their own.

A special musical treat comes from the nun choir from the Nonnberg Abbey. The choir is made up of 23 women and teen-agers that have heavenly voices of their own. Combined, they nearly steal the show and warrant a separate concert of their own. The highlight of the choir is Mother Abbess, who is played by Varvara (Barbara) Sediakina-Larson, a newcomer to the Kenai Performers who has sung opera all over the world.

In the stage version of "The Sound of Music," unlike the movie, the characters of Max Detweiler and Elsa Schraeder (the captain's fiancee) are singing parts. The characters have some colorful songs that are enthusiastically performed by Bob Mabrey and Renee Duncan.

Capt. von Trapp is played by Doug McAuliffe. McAuliffe hasn't had much experience with leading roles, but he hasn't let that stop him from creating a strong and multi-dimensional character.

"(Doug) has been incredibly dedicated to being the best captain he can be and to being his own captain, not just recreating the movie," Cady said.


Maria prays for the von Trapp children as Liesl tries to sneak by.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

For Cady, who began in community and professional theater when she was 7, playing the role of Maria is something she's dreamed about since she was a child.

"Ever since I saw the movie as a little girl, I wanted to play the part of Maria. I was a von Trapp kid in high school, and it became this obsession -- I must play Maria before I die," she said, laughing. "But I didn't think I would because I was never in a town that was putting it on. So being cast as the part is a dream come true."

Cady was drawn to the role by the music, which is a joy to sing, and the truth in the von Trapp story, she said.

One pleasant challenge for the cast was to take such a classic, well-known musical and make it unique, not just imitate the movie version. The stage version of the script varies in some ways from the movie but the rest of the uniqueness comes from the actors themselves.

"I love seeing the story come to life and seeing the actors finding themselves in the story," Ford said. "Every night we have people moved anew, even people who have seen it all these times."

The set designer, scene painters and set builders paid close attention to the authenticity of the von Trapp story as they created the environment for the musical.


Maria prays for the von Trapp children as Liesl tries to sneak by.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Kim Lee, set designer, researched architecture from the time period and region and studied pictures of the actual von Trapp house. The exterior of the house in the play is designed and painted to be a replica of their mansion. The Nonnberg Abbey and abbey garden scenes, including the stained-glass windows -- designed by Rita Eddy Kincade -- are designed and painted to be authentic, as well.

Even the mountains used as backdrops for the set, designed by Pat Lytle, were created from pictures of the Alps.

The extensive set, musical requirements, costumes and other elements of the show required an army of volunteer support to make the show come together.

"I'm amazed at how many people come to help and get hooked on it," Ford said. "They realize how fun it is and how important to the community it is. I'm always amazed by how people are looking for ways to help us with the show.

"It's so cool that the community is so enthusiastic about this."

"The Sound of Music" plays Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Feb. 21, 22, 23 and 24 at the Kenai Central High School Renee Henderson Auditorium.

A sing-along pick-up rehearsal will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Tickets are available in Kenai at Charlotte's, Malston's, Kenai Merit Inn, Halcyon Spalon and Alaskan Gift and Gallery, and in Soldotna at River City Books, The Music Box and Sweeney's. For more information, call 776-8308.

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