A special production like The Sound of Music calls for very special props. Learn more about the custom-made bikes from Chicago's own Heritage Bicycles that were especially designed for the von Trapp children and Rolf!

When Lyric starts to gather the props for a grand-scale new production of  The Sound of Music, our expert production team tries to find as many authentic and unique sources as possible. Set designer Michael Yeargan's plans for the show included bicycles for the von Trapp children and Rolf—which meant finding some period-appropriate bikes. It was also important to both Michael and director Marc Bruni that the bikes look new, because the von Trapp family was wealthy, making vintage bikes out of the question. 

How do you solve a problem like these bicycles? The answer was right here in Chicago! Heritage Bicycles General Store is owned by Michael and Melissa Salvatore, who pride themselves on manufacturing every custom bicycle they make completely in Chicago. Located just south of Lincoln and Belmont in the Lakeview neighborhood, Heritage Bicycles is a general store where you can try out a bike, buy a new helmet, or just get a great latte!

Owner Michael Salvatore gave us some insight into how they make each bike and his family's connection to Lyric Opera! Michael is a Chicago native who, oddly enough, went to Hardey Prep—the same grade school as our own Captain von Trapp, Billy Zane. 

How long does it take for you to manufacture each bicycle?

We generally have two steps. First, we run a production of a frame and size. Ideally, we make 40 at a time of any one type/size. This generally takes up to 3 weeks to complete. This gives us the raw frame. Second, we meet with customers to customize their bike. This can take 3 to 5 weeks depending on the upgrades. Custom paint will take 14 to 21 days and, depending on components and ordering, the finished product may take another week or so.

Are the bikes one of your regular styles or custom for the show? Did you have to make specific modification to make sure they were appropriate for the late 1930s, when the show is set?

Well, on the specific instance of The Sound of Music, we had just completed making our first run of step-through Dutch-inspired bicycles. When you gave us the call and we dug into the story and props a little more, it was obvious to me that "The Jane" was the bike that would be a fit for the musical. We just had to make some slight adjustments to customize specifically for this production.

Have you made bikes for any other theater productions, films, or TV shows?

Back in 2012 we sent a couple bikes out for a movie called Chinese Puzzle. It was being filmed in New York City. We have also sent bikes to The Steve Harvey Show. Last year, we made bikes for Lollapalooza and Pitchfork.

Out of the many accomplishments Heritage Bicycles General Store has had over the past couple years, I have never heard my parents be as excited as they were when they heard we were making the bikes for Lyric Opera. They have been subscribers for 25+ years, and I am sure the moment they see our bikes on stage their heads are going to blow! So thanks for giving me some parental points. 

You can see the custom craftsmanship of Michael and his team on stage at Lyric from April 25 to May 25!

Photo credit

  • Heritage Bicycles custom-made for The Sound of Music (Todd Rosenberg / Lyric Opera of Chicago)