BWW Interviews: Behind the Scenes with the Director & Cast of SDMT's THE SOUND OF MUSIC
BWW is happy to present a special, insider interview conducted by San Diego Musical Theatre's Susan Farese, as she sits down with Director/Choreographer Todd Nielsen and cast members of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
It's not every day that we get the "inside take" on the personal journeys of Equity performers and Directors in a professional regional stage production. Here are some intimate, insightful tidbits about favorite scenes, songs, motivations, thoughts, special moments and/or difficulties they shared with me about San Diego Musical Theatre's current production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music", (May 10th through May 26th) at the Birch North Park Theatre.
Todd Nielsen, Director/Choreographer
SF: Please tell us a little about directing this particular production..
TN: "The Sound of Music" is such a lovely, classical piece and we hope to show a fresh spin and approach in our interpretation for today's audiences.
SF: Are there any particular aspects you'd like to mention?
TN: We are focusing on the story, the relationships of the characters, the political climate. Also trying to utilize the creative space, more of a "suggested set" as we wouldn't be able to fit the usual set of "The Sound of Music" in this space.
SF: What's been the most fun?
TN: It's really been fun doing the choreography and scene work. We're not just "sitting back" we're trying to keep it alive, active and still stay true to the story".
Allison Spratt Pearce (Maria Rainer):
Note: I had a few moments to speak with Allison, who was gracious to grant me some time despite her extremely busy daily life ritual: simultaneously doing morning and daytime shows of "Twelfth Night" through The Old Globe while also rehearsing for SDMT's "The Sound of Music".
SF: Why is "The Sound of Music" so special to you?
ASP: "The Sound of Music" is one of my favorite shows for many reasons. Rodgers & Hammerstein's beautifully classic story is easy to follow yet so complex.
SF: And your role as Maria?
ASP: Maria is such a "meaty" role! I love playing Maria and couldn't wait to play her. I'm so grateful to be cast in the role at this time in my life.
SF: Any personal stories to share?
ASP: I traveled to Austria with my extended family and we went on "The Sound of Music Tour" and to the concert. It was great! We sang all the songs as a family!
SF: Do you have any songs from TSOM that you are especially fond of?
ASP: The song that is dear to my heart is "Edelweiss" because it reminds me of my maternal grandparents that would sing the song. My grandmother was a beautiful singer! In the Sound of Music, Edelweiss is such a sweet melodic lullaby yet it becomes monumental in the show because it is the story's climax.
Randall Dodge (Captain Georg von Trapp)
SF: Randall, tell us about the significance that The Sound of Music has for you.
RD: The Sound of Music will always have a special place in my heart because I got engaged to my wife Brenda during that production.
SF: Really? That is amazing. When was that?
RD: It was 2006 and we had been dating a year when we both were cast in The Sound of Music.
SF: What were your roles back then?
RD: Brenda was cast as a Nun in the ensemble and I was playing Captain Von Trapp. One night during dress rehearsal the young girl playing Gretl told her "non-stage" Mom that the actor playing her father (me) in the show didn't really love Maria and that he was going to marry one of the Nuns! It was the first time I had shared the stage with child actors and the first time I had played anyone's father.
SF: That's so charming and so insightful! Anything else to share?
RD: The girl playing Brigitta back then looked like what I imagined my child would look like when Brenda and I were ready to have a family. The entire experience was very emotional for me. Trying to sing the reprise of the title song was and still is very difficult for me .
SF: How heartwarming that must have been. Why do you enjoy this show?
RD: There is something incredibly moving about this show and the score. It is an honor to play this coveted role and to get to sing this beautiful music".
Victoria Strong (The Mother Abbess)
SF: Hi Victoria, um, "Mother Abbess" (flashback to parochial school)... tell us about your experiences with "The Sound of Music".
VS: Well, I grew up with "The Sound of Music" starting with seeing the movie as a child in a movie theater where they actually had an Intermission!
SF: I remember those days...Have you ever been involved in the show before?
VS: I played Liesl, then moved onto Maria and now The Mother Abbess.
SF: Are there any favorite scenes?
VS: I think my favorite scene is when Maria meets the children into "Do-Re-Mi".
SF: And other thoughts or any unique difficulties?
VS: The purity and love written in the show is truly inspiring. The only difficult thing is wearing the nuns habit as it gets in the way of hearing clearly.
Jill Van Velzer (Elsa Schraeder)
SF: Jill, what are your thoughts about this production of "The Sound of Music"?
JVV: It's a blessing and a curse that we've all seen (or done!) low-scale, junior high or high school productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein shows like "The Sound of Music," or "Oklahoma!" or "The King and I." I think a lot of audience members associate these shows with amateur productions, and they think that the shows themselves are dated or hokey, with one-dimensional characters and bad scripts. But it's like Beethoven's "Fur Elise"; we've all heard it played so badly at so many countless grade school piano recitals that we forget it's a beautiful piece of music written by a true master! When you get a production of "The Sound of Music" performed by actor-musicians who have real talent and a real respect for the material, the show becomes a whole different beast, and you realize why Rodgers and Hammerstein are so revered.
David McBean (Max Detweiler)
SF: Have you previously worked with any of your fellow cast members?
DM: Yes! Allison and I are both currently in The Old Globe's "Twelfth Night" Outreach. Jill Van Velzer and I also worked together; I played her ex-boyfriend who chased her across the U.S. in "The Great America Trailer Park Musical" with the San Diego Repertory Theatre. It's the 2nd time I've worked with Musical Director Don Le Master, who I've known for 17 years! Finally I've been a fan of Randall Dodge for many years.
SF: Do you have any favorite moments in the show?
DM: The first time the von Trapp children sing brings tears to my eyes. They are so talented and adorable at the same time. I've taught one cast member and a sibling of another at the San Diego Junior Theatre.
SF: Any particular challenges with your role as Max?
DM: Yes, It was a challenge to play Max and his motivation without making him unlikeable. He was a Nazi sympathizer, yet he played both sides. I had to tow the line of his self-protection as well as his taking care of the others.
For more information, visit: www.sdmt.org or call 858-560-5740.
San Diego Musical Theatre (SDMT) is an award-winning, nonprofit theater company that seeks to bring vibrant musical theatre to the San Diego community. The mission of SDMT is to impact audiences by producing a range of classic and contemporary musical productions that engage and enhance the overall theatre experience. By partnering with professional actors, musicians, and technicians SDMT infuses momentum and energy into one of the only true American art forms. SDMT's vision is to create an environment where high-quality musical theatre thrives in San Diego for generations to come.
San Diego Musical Theatre is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.
Photo Credit: Ken Jacques