By Mary O’KEEFE
The well-known musical “The Sound of Music” will be performed at the Highlands Theatre at the Highlands Church, 4441 La Crescenta Ave. in La Crescenta.
Local resident and longtime thespian Carter Thomas will step from the stage to direct this musical.
“I love this story. It is timeless,” he said.
There is a personal connection for Thomas as well because when he was 11 years old, over a decade ago, he portrayed Kurt von Trapp, the middle of seven children of the von Trapp family.
For those who do not know the story of “The Sound of Music,” the musical and movie was based on the book “The Story of the von Trapp Family Singers.” Although the Broadway musical and film took a lot of creative license to create a story, the actual events set a solid foundation for the popular production.
Maria Augusta Kutschera grew up as an orphan and was set to enter the convent as a novitiate but then was sent to tutor one of the children of Baron Georg von Trapp. He was a highly decorated submarine commander in WWI in Salzburg, Austria. After his wife died he retired to take care of his seven children. Like in the musical, Maria fell in love with the dashing commander and they became a family, although making the decision to marry instead of becoming a nun was not an easy one.
Though they may not have actually escaped Austria by climbing over the Alps with only the few things they could carry, according to reports by the baron’s daughter Maria the family told people they were leaving to sing in America. They didn’t climb “every mountain” as the song says but left by train.
However what was true was their decision to escape Austria as the Nazis were coming to power, and they did have a magical effect on their audiences. A New York Times review in 1938 stated, “There was something unusually lovable and appealing about the modest, serious singers of this little family aggregation as they formed a close semicircle about their self-effacing director for their initial offering, the handsome Mme. von Trapp in simple black, and the youthful sisters garbed in black and white Austrian folk costumes enlivened with red ribbons. It was only natural to expect work of exceeding refinement from them, and one was not disappointed in this.”
This story of family and Godly love is as important today as it was in the 1930s, and Thomas understands those moments in the live theatre when the audience becomes invested in those characters.
“I think there is nothing else like it. Where else can you go into a space and have a shared experience with other people who are enjoying the same thing?” he asked.
Thomas describes his cast as professional actors who have worked hard to get to production night. Many of the actors are those he worked with previously in the former Glendale Centre Theatre.
Performances on Aug. 4, 6 and 11 are at 7:30 p.m.; on Aug. 5 and 12, matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets range are from $15 to $20 and can be purchased by going to www.highlandsla.com or calling (818) 249-5832.
It seems appropriate for the performances to be at a church because, although the real Maria only made an estimated $500,000 in royalties for the film rights, she believed that the film would help restore people’s faith in God, which was her personal priority.