The hills are alive …


REENFIELD — The hills are alive with the sound of the Ricks-Weil Theatre Company rehearsing for its upcoming production, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.”

“The Sound of Music” follows the story of Maria, a misfit nun who becomes a governess for Capt. Von Trapp and his seven children on the eve of World War II. The captain and Maria fall in love, gain fame as a family of singers and then try to escape from Nazi-infested Austria. The original stage production was performed in 1959, with the movie by the same name, starring Julie Andrews as Maria, hitting theaters in 1965.

Ted Jacobs, drama director at Greenfield-Central High School, is pulling double duty with this, his second production with the Ricks-Weil group after last year’s performance as Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” He is serving as director as well as portraying Capt. Von Trapp.

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“This wasn’t the original plan,” Jacobs said, “It’s a challenge because I have to watch and act at the same time.”

Alexandra Kern, a 2013 Greenfield-Central graduate, said she was surprised to be cast in the role of Maria. Age-wise, she worried she was “right in the middle,” perhaps too old for one of the Von Trapp children but too young for the leading lady.

Music director Beth Ray-Scott had other ideas.

“I wanted a young Maria,” Ray-Scott said. “The real Maria Von Trapp was … 25 years younger than Capt. Von Trapp.”

Which is just how it will play out on stage for the leads — Kern, 20, and Jacobs, 45.

Kern is especially enjoying getting to know the kids in the show who play the Von Trapp children. Her interactions with them are her favorite part of being in the show.

“Their talent is far above where I was at that age,” Kern said. “They know their lines and their songs. They’re so focused.”

The cast is full of experienced actors. Hank Kratky of Fortville, a veteran of several community theater productions, plays the part of Max Detweiler, a friend of Capt. Von Trapp. He describes his character as “a lovable, but slimy, self-serving sponge,” who — spoiler alert — redeems himself in the end.

Michelle Wafford of Indianapolis was last seen on the Ricks’ stage as Emily Webb in Acting Up Productions’ “Our Town” in 2012. She returns to Greenfield to play opposite Kratky and Jacobs as Elsa Von Schraeder, friend of Max and pre-Maria love interest of Capt. Von Trapp.

Wafford sings two songs with Max: “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It” joined in by Von Trapp.

“They are fun songs,” Wafford said. “I sing higher than I’ve ever sung in my life.”

Another veteran community theater performer is Susan Smith of Carmel, who was last seen in Greenfield in 2010 as the title character in the Ricks-Weil production of “Hello, Dolly!”

Smith has performed in “The Sound of Music” with other theater groups, but in this production — her first time as the Mother Abbess — she gets to sing a fan favorite, “Climb Every Mountain,” at the close of the first act.

“It’s an awesome, show-stopping number,” Smith said. “‘Climb Every Mountain’ is an anthem. You remember it.”

Like the rest of cast, Smith loves “The Sound of Music.”

“It’s a classically beautiful, family-friendly show. It never gets old,” Smith said.

Amalia Moss, a Greenfield-Central High School theater student, plays Frau Schmidt, the maid.

Given the choice between being an unnamed member of the nun chorus of having a role with a name, “I chose the name part,” she joked.

Katie Cook, a Mt. Vernon High School student, is part of the unnamed nun’s chorus, but she opted to give herself a name just for fun.

“I’m Julie,” Cook said. “Sister Julie.”

There are, of course, a number of children in the show who play the Von Trapp family siblings.

Bobbie Lawrence, mother of Lainie Lawrence, who plays Marta, said backstage can get a bit hectic with seven costumes and 10 costume changes for each of the children.

“It’s a little overwhelming, but she loves it,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know how many times we’ve watched the movie.”

Grant Newton, who returns to the Ricks stage after his role as Marcellus Washburn in last summer’s “The Music Man,” said he can sums up the general feelings of everyone in the cast.

“It’s a classic,” said Newton. “Everyone should see this on stage.”

Ricks-Weil Theatre Company’s “The Sound of Music” opens Friday and runs through Aug. 9. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday performances are at 2:30 p.m. at the H.J. Ricks Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Greenfield. Tickets can be reserved by calling 317-443-2005.