The hills and rehearsal hall of Chemainus are alive with The Sound of Music.
The Chemainus Theatre Festival opens what’s going to be a record-breaking season for attendance with the timeless classic Feb. 15-April 6.
Whenever anyone wonders what the theatre can do for an encore, it simply launches one iconic production after another, following Little Women that concluded 2018 with The Sound of Music to begin the 2019 campaign.
“We stay true to the story,” said Mark DuMez, the theatre’s artist director and director for this performance.
“I think seeing it in our intimate space is a very pleasant thing. You get a direct contact with the story.”
Rehearsals started Jan. 21 for the large cast that includes eight boys and girls to fill the roles of the von Trapp siblings. It’s a great experience for all those young people to be on stage.
“They’re all from Vancouver Island,” noted DuMez. “They bring a lot of honesty and spirit to the piece and energy. We had a really nice round of auditions from the kids on Vancouver Island.”
The Sound of Music was first performed on Broadway in 1959, with the film adaptation released in 1965 that made it so well-known with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the lead roles.
The musical was based on Maria von Trapp’s book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers published in 1949. There were several differences between the true story of the von Trapp family and the Broadway and film adaptations.
There are few people who aren’t familiar with the romantic story of how Captain von Trapp and Governess Maria fall in love and build a family together during the turbulent time leading up the First World War. It’s a story that truly stands the test of time through its classic songs.
“There’s a political side of it that is reflective of things that are happening today,” said DuMez. “Every parent has had a Captain von Trapp moment.
“I think what I found I’ve been kind of surprised how the story gets its hooks in me in a positive way.”
“It’s a classic story,” said Ian Farthing, who switches gears from frequently directing at the Chemainus Theatre to appearing on stage as Captain Georg von Trapp.
“I don’t act that much anymore. This is a role I’ve always wanted to have a crack at. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at it.”
Farthing has enjoyed every minute of the lead-up and can’t wait for the performances to begin. He isn’t going into it with any preconceived notions of replicating Plummer.
“I still haven’t watched the movie all the way through,” Farthing indicated. “You don’t want to have someone else’s performance in your head. You want to make it your own.”
“They’re doing a fine job putting their own stamp on it,” conceded DuMez of the cast.
The rest of the large cast includes: Julia Ullrich as Maria Rainer; Cate Richardson as Sister Berthe/Elsa Schrader; Melissa Morris as Sister Margaretta; Stephanie Roth as the Mother Abbess; Sabrina Prada as Sister Sophia/Frau Schmidt; Erik Gow as Franz/Herr Zeller/Admiral von Schreiber; Henry Beasley as Rolf Gruber and Nick Preston as Max Detweiler.
For the Young Company, Hannah Patrice performs as Liesl; Jonas Brittain as Friedrich; Anna Hill as Louisa; Brin Slydell as Kurt; Jillian Telfer as Briggita; Julianna Toft as Marta; and Kaia Russell and Megan Williams spelling off as Gretl.
Morris is the music director and Melissa Young the choreographer.
There are seven matinee and evening shows each week.
“I love Chemainus and this show is a very strong show,” said Farthing. “It’s a joy to be part of it.
“Music has the power to change lives – that’s something I believe in really strongly.”
His character’s stance softens through that very power of song.
“To me, that’s the key moment in the play for him,” noted Farthing.
The 2019 Chemainus Theatre season also includes two other highly-acclaimed productions, Mamma Mia! and Miracle on 34th Street and many solid shows in between.
“I’m really pleased with the depth and breadth of the season,” DuMez enthused.
The season ticket total has already been eclipsed.
“It’s an admiration people love buying in and supporting the overall work in the theatre,” noted DuMez.
“I’m always amazed the way this theatre functions on this Island and draws folks from all different areas.”