The Sound of Music

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music” is a universally loved story with some of the most popular songs ever performed.

The Hawaii Children’s Theatre selected the 54 year-old musical as its fall production with nine performances starting Friday and running through Dec. 1 at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

Director Marly Madayag said people of all ages enjoy the Sound of Music for its beauty and simplicity, and it’s a joy to have the family-friendly production as the fall show, she said.

“It is one of the first musicals that I was exposed to as a kid and it drew me in and made me love musical theatre,” Madayag said.

The lead character, Maria (Erin Gaines) is a resident of the Nonnberg Abbey in 1938 Austria, just prior the Nazi Germany invasion. She is not following the rules and a sympathetic Mother Abbess (Delia Valentin) assigns her to become the governess to the seven children of Captain Georg von Trapp (Jarhett Gaines).

The children tend to scare away their governess, but soon take a liking to the nurturing Maria. Meanwhile, the retired Austrian Naval officer and widower is being pressured to serve in the German Navy.

The opportunistic Max Detweiler (Morgan Liddell) attempts to arrange a marriage between the captain and a rich woman. However, his affection grows for Maria and the family must decide whether to risk their lives by fleeing Austria with the Nazis on their heals.

Erin and Jarhett Gaines are real life husband and wife. Having two children at home means that Jarhett will be sharing his role with Erik Hagen in alternating shows.

“I never thought I would be Maria,” said Erin Gaines, 28, of Kapaa, who has been performing with HTC since she was 12. She considers herself “an actor who can sing” rather than the other way around.

“Erin is a phenomenal actor and singer with great instincts,” Madayag said. “It is a pleasure to work with her.”

Delia Valentin has a strong role as Mother Abbess. She is an actor who can sing powerful songs, like Climb Every Mountain, and also has the presence to carry a scene, Madayag said.

Around 30 actors ranging from ages 6 to 70, attend summer theatre classes and most are veterans of past productions.

Eva Allyn, 6, of Anahola, is in her first HTC production as Gretl von Trapp. She enjoys the dancing and has come to think of her fellow cast as real sisters.

“The music is powerful,” said Kiela Casillas, 9, of Lihue. She portrays Marta von Trapp.

“The music is what brought this family back together,” said Natalie Claytor, 10, of Kalaheo. She portrays Louisa von Trapp.

To prepare the kids for their roles, she read to them from the original memoir of Maria von Trapp. She also taught them about the swastika and showed them film clips about what it was like to be a youth during the rise of Nazi Germany.

She also invited Sister Hannah Johnacheck from St. Theresa’s in Kekaha to talk to the actors about what it is like to be a nun.

“Widening their knowledge base about history, society and culture makes them better people and more aware as citizens about who we come from and our history as human beings,” she said.

The technical achievement includes the arches of the Nonnberg Abbey, and the palatial residence of the Von Trapp family. The large sets offer another element to bring the story alive for an audience.

“This is a first because the sets are so huge,” Madayag said.

The “cyclorama” (15 x 40 foot screen) allows the lighting designer to color the background for each scene.

More than 100 people are involved, from 14 set movers to a crew of 10 on the creative team and a 27 member orchestra. There have been 63 rehearsals totaling 300 hours.

“There are a lot of the technical things to work on and I am really looking forward to opening night,” she said. “The rehearsals are going smoother and we are running faster.”

The three-weekend show opens Nov. 15, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.. For tickets visit www.hawaiichildrenstheatre.com or call HCT at 246-8985.

The Nov. 17 matinee benefits Kauai Food Banks and all seats are $6 with a food or monetary donation. A “VIP Tea fundraiser at 2 p.m. Nov. 24 goes for $30 ticket, and includes refreshments, a backstage tour, a “Landler” dance lesson, a sing-a-long with the orchestra and Von Trapp Family, a souvenir and preferred seating.

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