Twelve Children Cast in The Sound of Music
By Liz Armstrong
The Sound of Music is an incredibly memorable piece of theatre, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival predicts that its production this summer will be made even more so with the casting of twelve talented children to play the six youngest von Trapp children.
Each of the six roles have been double cast to make it easier to work with the schedules of these young, part-time thespians and their diverse schedules. The twelve young actors are:
Gwynn Christ and Rubey Pearson as Gretl
Shelby Fawson and Molly Pearson as Louisa
Liv Harter and Kate Sowards as Brigitta
Penny Hodson and Ridley Hulse as Marta
Mack Lawrence and Ian Wilson as Kurt
Brooke Mellen and Joel Wilson as Friedrich
Michael Bahr, Festival education director who assisted in the recruitment and rehearsal process, is excited about the caliber of these children.
“I’m thrilled we are doing The Sound of Music because we can utilize talented youth performers from the region,” Bahr said. “It is a really great way to celebrate both their talent and for them to learn from professional actors.” The children cast are from the Wasatch Front and Las Vegas, as well as from the Cedar City and St. George area.
The auditions were a day-long process, with over eighty children ranging from ages 5 to 19 vying for the roles. Beginning at 9 a.m., they sang, danced, and acted; then over half of the children were called back for a second round.
Bahr said the large callback wasn’t about not breaking the kid’s hearts, but about finding the very best actors. “I said to Brian Vaughn [the Festival artistic director], ‘You didn’t have to call that many kids back,’ and he said, ‘I know but they’re really good, and I want to give them a chance, to teach them,’” Bahr related.
Bahr explained that in addition to looking for children that could sing, dance, and act, they were on the lookout for those with a kind of professional demeanor and teachability. Ultimately, Bahr, Vaughn, and director Keenon Hooks were asking the question, “Who is best at sharing?” “Theatre is about a conversation between the performers and the audience,” Bahr explained. “We need child performers that can share and connect with the audience and their cast members. When you find that, it’s a very special and unique thing, and I think they got that with this group.”
Bahr praised Hooks, explaining that because he has worked with all levels of actors, including children, he expects that as a director will be able to draw out their very best performances.
Although most everyone is familiar with the Julie Andrews’ production, patrons will get to see this specific show again for the first time. “They have never seen this production before,” Bahr said. “You will hear the songs again and go, ‘Wow, I’ve never noticed that before,’ because of what these performers and director have to offer.”
At the end of the day, theater is about representing humanity onstage so that patrons can see a bit of themselves in every production, and that is what the Festival will accomplish this year with The Sound of Music. “Shakespeare knows that you have to have all of humanity represented on stage,” Bahr said. “We want to make sure, as a company, that we are engaging with all of humanity, and children are part of that humanity. Having children onstage engaging with other children in the audience is important.”