Local Von Trapp Kids Keep ‘Sound of Music’ Fresh
A few months ago, Concertus Manila and Lunchbox Theatricals announced that they will be casting local children to play the Von Trapp children in the international touring production of The Sound of Music.
Almost 400 children in total auditioned for Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl when we dropped by the first day of auditions last May 12 at Whitespace Manila.
There are a number of pre-requisites to think about when casting the kids for this production. The children’s height, growth spurts, and the potential of their voice breaking are of significant importance, especially since the production still has a few months to go before opening in September.
Over the next 2 days, resident director Johnny Bowles and Lunchbox Theatrical associate producer Rachael Abbott will be narrowing down the kids based on their ability to grasp choreography, harmonization, and acting.
What else are you looking for when casting the children?
Johnny Bowles: You need to have children who can learn the show quite quickly because it is complex. The choreography is more complex for the kids than the film and perhaps other stage productions of the show. And the harmonies that they have to learn. And with all of the guidelines of various, different countries with labor laws… you can only have certain times where you can rehearse the kids and then you need to stop so you don’t really have a lot of time. In the UK for example, we can sort of rehearse, not as much as we like, but certainly with more flexibility. So that’s always a factor.
Do you always cast local children?
Rachael Abbott: In every country when we’ve done it internationally, when Lunchbox has been involved, we’ve always auditioned local children to work with the international cast because we think it’s really important.
What are the significant things that the kids gain from the experience?
Abbott: There are some really, really good kids and it’s lovely to see because they don’t always get that exposure and those opportunities. The kids you see, after a while, they really thrive on it. It’s not just working. It’s working in an adult environment as well in the theater, and learning about the theater world, and how to behave backstage, and how everything works backstage, and that’s really important for them as well. So it’s a real experience for them.
Bowles: And getting to work with the adult cast that they get to work with who are just on top of their game. So they do learn an awful lot from the process. And I always think that normally they’re completely different kids by the end of the run. I’ve been told from all over the world, they’re still in contact with me and they tell me, ‘you’ve changed my child’.
Abbott: They’re more disciplined. There are a couple of kids I knew that weren’t very good at doing their homework for example, but now they’re a lot more disciplined because they have to be in rehearsals. They’ve now taken that discipline and they’re doing it at home and that helps them in school.
Bowles: Because we encourage them to follow all of the information that I give them in rehearsal, from choreography, to what their acting thoughts are… they’re all written out in their notebooks. And normally at the end of the rehearsal process, I give them a little prize for the ones with the best notebooks. But again that’s part of maybe what helps them in school because they want to impress me so they put a lot of effort in their notebooks and things like that.
How does the talent here compare to the talents from other countries?
Bowles: We don’t really know what we’ve got yet here. Every city and every country that we’ve done the show in has been just something a little bit different. Which makes it special. It’s what keeps it fresh for me especially since I’ve done it a lot. I did the UK tour. I did the international tour. And I just came off the Australian national tour so what keeps me from going crazy (laughs), is the kids.
Abbott: At the end of the day, no one has a bad audition. We encourage all children to audition. It’s a positive thing to do because we want them to audition for other shows in the future. They might be the most fantastic singer but they might not be right for what Johnny is looking for. And there are many factors to look at, like what Johnny said about the height, whether they mix well with the families that Johnny’s sort of putting together, so we encourage them to keep trying. And you’ve got to enjoy it. You’ve got to enjoy doing it.
What will make the Manila staging different from the other productions?
Bowles: The kids make it different… It’s the kids that make it unique.
Abbott: The kids keep it fresh and it keeps it fresh for the cast because the cast has to work with different sets of kids in every country they go to. So it keeps it fresh for them every time as well.
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