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Fine Arts Series: The Sound of Music

For the first time ever at Pensacola Christian College, the Fine Arts Series production of The Sound of Music, presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, enchanted audiences with its beloved story and familiar musical numbers. Set in Austria 1938, Maria is sent from Nonnberg Abbey to become a governess for Austrian naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp’s children. She introduces music and laughter back into the home, helping the captain reconnect with his children. As this takes place, the threat of the German occupation of Austria looms overhead, preceding the start of World War II.

A Beloved Story

Those at PCC have looked forward to seeing The Sound of Music for about a year, with auditions for the production beginning last spring. During the fall, rehearsals focused on learning the lines and music, and this semester introduced stage movement, hair and makeup, costumes, and mics.

Maria and the von Trapp children singing "Do-Re-Mi."

“This story is based on the personal family history of the von Trapp family,” explained Miss Liz Thomason, artistic director. “While not everything in the musical exactly matches the family’s experience, it has been refreshing to work with real-life characters and plot.” Miss Thomason, Musical Director Jonathan McIntyre, and Conductor Charles Bombard worked together to help the actors and student musicians of the live orchestra bring this story to life.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge was meeting audience expectations,” Miss Thomason continued. “So many have spoken to me about what the show means to them—they share stories about family, special traditions, and their favorite lines and songs. We’re all familiar with the classic movie version; however, my goal was to create an entirely new experience for the audience while still respecting and even paying homage to the beloved film.”

“It has been refreshing to work with real-life characters and plot.”

Like many in the cast, Megan Smith (Sr., GA), who played Maria, grew up watching the film and singing along with the songs. When she was 15, she saw a live stage production of the musical. “I sat there and couldn’t help but think that that’s what I wanted to do—I wanted to perform! Thus, a dream began!” she shared. “When they announced that they were having auditions for it, the show of my dreams, I was ecstatic! I think I would’ve kicked myself forever if I didn’t at least try to audition for it.”

Matthew McIntyre (Graduate Assistant), who played the astute Captain von Trapp, found how close a cast can become, especially after several months of working together on the production. “We have become a family,” he shared. “Even though it was a fairly large cast, everyone cared for everyone else. During our group prayer time at the beginning of each rehearsal, we were able to share what was going on in our lives and the burdens we were all facing. We were able to come alongside struggling cast members and lift them up and encourage them, and it has been a blessing to work with people who truly care about others.”

Practice, Preparation, Performances

Preparing for the final performances wasn’t without challenges! Cast and crew used each rehearsal as a chance to improve in a new area. As Rolf Gruber, a telegram delivery boy who supports the German party, Hayden Merrick (So., AZ) had to learn how to cross the Dale Horton Auditorium (DHA) stage on a bike. “Probably the most challenging part was getting the bike riding down for ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen,’” he said. “The floor was very slick, and I had to ride very slowly and turn very wide to not slip; but I figured it out eventually.”

This production had 20 scene changes, the most of any Fine Arts Series production, and included several fast turnarounds for costume changes between scenes. Eve Allen (Sr., FL), who played Sister Sophia in the Nonnberg Abbey scenes, assisted Megan in keeping her costumes ready and in order for changes. “I, along with Blayke Lane (Sr., CO), helped with Maria’s 13 costume changes,” she said. “There was nothing more fun than running around to get her into a different costume—her shortest costume change being 38 seconds. No one in the audience knew, but I always giggled at the fact that I was hiding in the sets waiting for the next costume change while they were onstage.”

The Nonnberg Abbey nuns performing the "Preludium."

The sets were designed with a vision in mind—translucency. Many of the set pieces were rigged into the fly system above the stage, putting a restriction on the weight of the overall pieces. “In my opinion, the most impressive part of this set is the abbey walls. While the four layers together visually fill the space, they are each only 1″ thick,” said Mr. Ben Davis, Scene Shop manager. “The abbey set was the most technically challenging because everything we built had to fit perfectly, like [for] the Gala.”

Each scene incorporated stained glass imagery and took advantage of the new LED lighting system in the DHA. The new system also added automated light fixtures that followed key actors and a gobo light that depicted stained glass and natural light patterns onto the stage. “Lighting adds to the creative power to tell the story,” said Mr. Dale Holler, chief lighting technician.

Many child actors made up the von Trapp children. The youngest were double cast, including Bible faculty Jared Twigg’s daughter Olivia as Gretl, allowing them to attend half of the rehearsals. “I think it is a neat thing to work at a college and raise your kids amongst a college community,” shared Mr. Twigg. “There are a lot of neat experiences that many kids never get that are unique to a college campus setting—having our daughter participate in a Fine Arts production is one such experience. There are many more! But it is such a blessing to have the opportunity to enrich our kids’ lives with the occasional opportunities that come along.”

An Unforgettable Experience

Each of the three shows were packed with excited audiences, some who experienced the story for the very first time and others who sang along with the songs. “I love The Sound of Music. I’ve watched it ever since I was a kid, so I was so excited to see what PCC would do,” said Hannah Aylestock (Jr., VA). “I think all the kids did such a great job. I can’t even imagine how much work went into it for them, even just imagining as college kids trying to learn all the lines. I can’t even imagine how much work they had to do.”

“I could see the amount of work and effort they put into making this show.”

The von Trap family singers performing "Do-Re-Me" at the Kaltzburg festival.

John Mark Kirkland (Jr., AL) found any scene with Maria and the kids heartwarming, but the overarching story about the struggle against the Third Reich affected him the most. “The one [song] that gets me every time on the deepest level is ‘Edelweiss’ at the end,” he shared. “Something about that song—I can’t hold back the tears for that song. I love the way that the conflict develops as the story goes on, where everyone has to decide who their allegiance is with—that’s where the depth of this play really comes out.”

Many students appreciated several aspects of the production, including the sets, costumes, and obvious hard work that each and every actor and musician put into making this production a success. “I could see the amount of work and effort they put into making this show, especially over two semesters,” shared Jordan Fergus (Fr., MD). He also appreciated the chance to spend another evening with friends before returning home. “Being able to have a Fine Arts where we get to dress up and go out with each other to see a really awesome performance—it makes me happy. It makes me very happy.”

Cassie Porter (Sr., MI), who played Captain von Trapp’s eldest daughter, Liesl, hopes that The Sound of Music will encourage students to look forward to future Fine Arts Series events. “Not all students are inclined to enjoy classic plays on their own time, whether it’s not up their alley or they don’t have the time as students,” she said. “This opportunity for the students to be [introduced] to it in an enjoyable setting can be beneficial for anyone.”

Music by Richard Rodgers.
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp.