Two days. Six roles. 113 children. The audition process for the von Trapp children was a whirlwind for the three directors and one intern of Marian’s musical production “The Sound of Music.” With no idea of what to expect, the directors came into Marian’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Aug. 22 with a plan. Director Mr. Michael McCandless said, “I wanted to take groups of children and do some fun warm-up acting games. The purpose of that was to alleviate any nerves they might have had coming in. Then I had scenes I wanted them to read and then we were going to hear them sing. That was the plan.”
However, as the audition time drew nearer, the PAC lobby began to fill up as more children, ranging from ages 5-14, anxious for their chance at being a von Trapp on the Marian stage. The original plan changed in a matter of minutes. “The best way to keep the audition moving was just to take them up in larger groups, teach them a song, and have them deliver a line I gave them one at a time,” McCandless said. This proved to be a challenge because the directors wanted to give each child a fair shot but only had a limited amount of time per child in the two and a half hours of the audition.
After the first night of auditions, the directors knew it would be a struggle to narrow down the list. McCandless said, “First, the process was matching the age to the characters as closely as we could. Next was imagining the ones we were looking at and how well they would work together.” They were able to narrow the number down from 113 to 19 for callbacks, which were held on Aug. 27.
These auditions proved to be special because of one major surprise. “I thought the most unique moment was after Eddie Smith auditioned and he came up and told me about his connection to the Von Trapp family. I wasn’t expecting that,” McCandless said.
Another little, but fun, surprise was the headshots the directors received before and at auditions. They received around five, even though they had said no materials were needed for the audition. Children (and their parents) were interested in making sure they were seen. However, it only reminded the directors of how exciting auditions were going to be.
Compared to past shows McCandless directed, Marian’s “The Sound of Music” had a record-breaking audition turn-out. McCandless said, “I directed ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ at the Omaha Community Playhouse in 2001 and had 90 girls audition for Anne.” The only difference was that for “The Sound of Music,” six kids were chosen rather than one.
The audition process to find the von Trapp children was a challenging one, but in the end, six talented youth were chosen from the masses. From St. Pius X/St. Leo School are seventh grader Abi Howard as Louisa, first grader Lydia Peters as Marta, and first grader Elaina Martinez as Gretl, from St. Patricks is sixth grader Clara Hawkins as Brigitta, from St. James is fourth grader Sebastian Hall as Kurt, and from St. Roberts is sixth grader Edward Watson as Friedrich. They will join 50 high school students in the show. The musical is going to be an exciting one, all thanks to the different personalities the actors of the von Trapp children will bring to the stage.