Clackamas Repertory Theatre presents 'The Sound of Music'
Pretty much everyone is familiar with at least one song from "The Sound of Music," but audiences are invited to refresh their memories when Clackamas Repertory Theatre presents "The Sound of Music" Aug. 6-28 at Osterman Theatre on the campus of Clackamas Community College in Oregon City.
The musical is directed by Jayne Stevens, CRT's assistant managing director and features leading performances from Equity actors Merideth Kaye Clark as Maria Rainer and Leif Norby as Capt. Georg von Trapp.
"When we thought about the show, those two were perfect for the roles," said David Smith-English, CRT's co-founder and artistic director.
He added, "Having those two in the cast sets the tone for the show."
Cyndy Smith-English, CRT co-founder and executive director, noted that she and her husband chose "The Sound of Music" to honor Jim and Janice Osterman, musical lovers who have been generous supporters of CRT for over 18 years. Unfortunately, Janice Osterman died, so now the musical will honor her memory.
Jim Osterman is sponsoring the entire CRT season. His love of musicals was inspired by his mother, who was a music teacher, and by his late wife, who appeared as the lead in many musicals when the couple were students at Milwaukie High School.
"The Sound of Music" is the final collaboration between Broadway legends Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The show is based on the true story of the von Trapp Family Singers and tells the inspiring tale of their escape from the Nazi invasion of Austria.
Often called the most beloved musical of all time, "The Sound of Music" includes standards "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "Do-Re-Me" and "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."
Director Stevens said she researched the time period of the show until she "had a sense of the world in which the characters were operating."
She asked herself how to keep the show classic, but at the same time relevant.
"We have added several nods to the movie with staging and costumes, as well as added more guitar playing for the character of Maria to make it feel like our own," Stevens said.
Keeping a large cast engaged through long rehearsals was challenging, Stevens said, but added that she was lucky to have "such a hard-working and devoted cast, eager to make musical theater again."
She added, "There are very few times in your life when you get to create something combining so many individual inputs."
There are 24 people in the production, including seven children who "come with so much enthusiasm for the work and are very quick learners," Stevens said.
She added that it has helped that Clark's two daughters are in the cast, so she has the benefit of having a parent to help.
"It is such a privilege to be able to help build a young person's understanding of theater, I feel lucky that this is my job," Stevens said.
Her favorite moment in the production is when Maria teaches the children to sing in "Do Rei Mi."
"The joy she brings into their life is very touching and I can relate, being that I get to introduce the young artists to professional musical theater as their director," Stevens added.
Playing Maria is a "dream role" for Clark, who noted that she credits playing Gretl in "The Sound of Music" when she was 7 years old as what got her started in theater.
Because the musical is based on the true story of the von Trapp family, Clark said she researched their lives and read Maria von Trapp's autobiography to prepare for the role.
What Clark loves most about her character is her connection to nature, noting that Maria "grew up with mountains in her backyard and living in Oregon I can relate to nature — it feels very Maria-like."
Her favorite moment in the production is the title song, but she also noted that when she is working with the children in the cast, she sees such joy in their eyes.
"I get to share that joy; it is transcendent," Clark said.
Her two daughters, Ever Rose Thorsell and Arden Thorsell, play von Trapp children Marta and Gretl, respectively.
"I love them, I love theater and I love being onstage with them; it combines my joys in life," Clark said.
Although this is the first time Norby has tackled the role of von Trapp, he did play the role of the butler in "The Sound of Music" in a community theater production when he was in high school in Montana.
He said when preparing for a role, he finds the answers he needs in the script. "In the Sound of Music," he discovered that von Trapp has "a rough exterior, but inside is a teddy bear."
At first, von Trapp treats his seven children in "a militant way, but he has just lost his wife and he had to go back to what he knew, which was the military," Norby said.
"But when he meets Maria, he falls in love and goes on a wonderful journey. He breaks out of his shell and reconnects with his children."
There are so many "endearing moments" in the show, but Norby said one of his favorites is when Clark sings the title song.
Another memorable moment came when he entered the building for rehearsal and heard the children singing a reprise of that song.
"I realized how much I had missed musical theater after the two-and-a-half years we've just been through. It was a magical moment," he said.
This is the second time Clark and Norby have worked together on the CRT stage; the first was when they starred in "Kiss Me Kate," in 2013.
"This is my first time directing both of them; they have lovely chemistry onstage and audiences will enjoy how each of these actors makes the iconic characters their own," Stevens said.
Working with Norby "is the best; I always know he will be honest onstage and I trust him. He is a generous actor," Clark said.
"Working with him really feels like play; it doesn't feel like work."
Working with Clark makes his job easier, Norby said, adding, "she is such a pro, an amazing talent and a wonderful person."
People should see CRT's production of "The Sound of Music" because it is special, Stevens said, "It will combine classic elements of the iconic show with new takes making it relevant for the world today," she said.
"The cast brings an understanding of the current global political climate with the Russian occupation of Ukraine and the attack on women's rights and how telling this story now is very relevant," Stevens added.
"This is the perfect show for right now in the world; people will remember the importance of family and of hope and they will hear joyful songs," Clark said.
"People will be so happy to be seeing a musical again," Norby said.
He added, "I hope the audience will just be reminded why live theater is such an important art form."
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