CHARLOTTESVILLE – Karter Petry has a bit of trouble relating to Rolf.
The character he plays in Eastern Hancock High School’s production of “The Sound of Music” is a 1930s teenager, leading a much different life than Karter.
“He’s a pretty shy and romantic dude, and I’m a little bit of neither,” Karter said.
Karter performs opposite of junior Savannah Coe as Liesl, his love interest.
Story continues below gallery
The duo says they are comfortable performing together – to a point.
They’ve known each other since they were in grade school, making the onstage kiss between Rolf and Liesl a bit uncomfortable for the pair.
“It’s kind of like kissing your awkward cousin … because we grew up together,” Petry said.
In Liesl, Savannah doesn’t find much common ground. Liesl, the oldest in a family of seven children, resents being treated like a child.
And Savannah finds her character to be “disrespectful and not fun.”
“The Sound of Music,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical about a lively nun – Maria (Shelby Kendall) – who leaves the convent to become governess for the Trapp family on the eve of the second world war. Maria falls in love with Captain Von Trapp (Dylan Letherer) and after some soul-searching with the Mother Abbess (Faith Turpin), Maria returns to the Trapp home to marry the captain and become a mother for the children.
Both Savannah and Karter agree that the best song in the show is their duet performance on the terrace of Liesl Von Trapp’s family estate, a scene that is made all the more poignant with war looming over their native country of Austria and all of Europe.
But director Mike Hewitt says the show will be full of talent, one of the best shows he’s ever directed.
He began his theater career as a parent volunteer when his son was cast in Eastern Hancock High School’s 2006 production of “Beauty and the Beast.” He went from assisting with the set-building to director in just two years, directing first a play, and then “Cinderella” as his first musical.
Over the years, he’s learned there’s never enough time for rehearsal, but students have been working for months to learn their parts, he said.
“Whenever the principal asks me how it’s going, I always say, ‘We could use two more weeks,’” Hewitt joked.
Auditions for the production were held before winter break and rehearsals started as soon as the students returned to school in January, Hewitt said.
One of the biggest challenges the cast faced with “The Sound of Music” was the numerous set changes. Over the course of the two-hour show, Hewitt, a three-man stage crew and the cast of actors change the set 14 times.
Among the different settings for the play are the mountains, the abbey, the Mother Abbess’ office, a terrace, a bedroom, the parlor of the Von Trapp family, a cemetery and a concert hall.
Hewitt has connections to help him with all the small details of the production. The backdrop for the production, an eye-catching vista of Maria’s beloved Austrian mountains, was painted by James Shepherd, a relative who is a freelance artist who created art for Disney.
Angela Mickler, director of the Greenfield Community Orchestra, taught students the music and conducts the pit orchestra for the production.
She even paired professional musicians with students in the pit to mentor them through the show and plays violin alongside her charges.
“The kids love it. The adults love it,” Mickler said. “It’s a learning experience. It gives them an opportunity to play a show. It’s great fun.”
Mickler was recruited into the Eastern Hancock performing arts family by fellow musician and Eastern Hancock High School band director Dan Buckalew to assist with the annual solo and ensemble contest for singers and musicians.
He then asked her to play in the orchestra for the school’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” She’s been involved ever since.
“This is a small farm school,” Mickler said. “I want them to have the same experiences as schools that are focused on the arts. A lot of these kids wouldn’t have the opportunity if it weren’t for Mr. Hewitt.”
Eastern Hancock High School, 10320 E. County Road 250N, presents “The Sound of Music” at 7 p.m. April 21 and 22. Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults.