From a snowboarder to a tae kwon do black belt — these kids are a multi-faceted lot.
What's more appealing than an American musical filled with great tunes and an engaging and delightful group of kids placed in the very center of the story? Lyric's new production of The Sound of Music has in its cast an assortment of talented young actors who can sing, dance, and, of course, act.
Of the seven von Trapp children, Liesl is the oldest. She's played here by Betsy Farrar, a rising young Chicago-based actress who graduated from Ball State University and whose most recent acting gig was in Gypsy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The others, Brady Tutton (Friedrich), Julia Schweizer (Louisa), Michael Harp (Kurt), Isabelle Roberts (Brigitta), KyLee Hennes (Marta), and Nicole Scimeca (Gretl) are children — or at least adolescents.
"Whether it was Chicago Children's Choir or stage roles and acting, the kids who came through the auditions have experience in a variety of backgrounds," says The Sound of Music assistant conductor Valerie Maze. That experience ranges from Nicole Scimeca's stage debut at the age of 2 in a production of The Music Man to Brady Tutton's appearance in an episode of Chicago Fire.
But don't think these kids are one-dimensional sorts — after all, they are kids and like kids everywhere, have a variety of interests. Brady Tutton (Friedrich) takes things to extremes, as in extreme sports: skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding. Isabelle Roberts (Brigitta) loves tumbling and circus arts. Michael Harp (Kurt) is into dance — tap, ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop, and so is Julia Schweizer (Louisa), who has studied ballet, jazz and tap. KyLee Hennes (Marta) formed a band called Drivin’ Hennes – and get this – has a black belt in tae kwon do!
A show like The Sound of Music can't get to the stage without countless hours of rehearsal. "With this many kids there's bound to be different skill levels" says Maze. "We start by simply going through the score page by page, working through the basics of each part and teaching it to them. The challenge, especially with the little ones, is to get them to focus in a rehearsal for two or three hours."
Many days they come to rehearsals after school, spending six hours in a classroom. Then this is followed by a two- or three- hour Sound of Music rehearsal. "That’s a long day for them," says Maze. "But kids understand when it's time to be quiet and work. They get this concept better than adults do. It's because they're in school and used to being quiet for long periods."
The mere presence of children brings a jolt of energy to any cast. They're optimistic and unselfconscious. Their world is not cluttered with the baggage of adulthood, but what kid isn't in a hurry to grow up? "It's exciting for them to be with grown adults, to be mentored and trusted," says Maze. "These kids have a chance to look up at these adults and think, 'Wow! I could do that someday.'"
Read more about these talented kids in our new blog, Lyric Lately.