Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Richard Stafford's Vision for The Sound of Music

Robert McDowell of Classical Voice of North Carolina interviews The Sound of Music director, Richard Stafford, about his work on the North Carolina Theatre production. Below he reveals that he played "Rolf" in college, how he works with seven of the Triangle's most talented youth and gives some insight on his fresh, new approach to the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein production.

1. When did you first see or read or hear about this musical? Have you ever worked on a previous production of this musical? If so, when and where?

The Sound Of Music movie was made when I was a young boy. I took a group of friends to see it for my 11th birthday. I performed the role of "Rolf" in a college production and choreographed the show at Casa Manana Theatre in Texas in the mid-90's.

2. What do you like BEST about this musical? What made you WANT to direct it?

It's a classic--after having choregraphed the musical, I've looked for opportunities to direct it as well. I was happy when this was offered to me.

3. Briefly summarize the PLOT of this musical in your own words.

Plot: A young woman brings music and love to a family separated by sadness, in doing so she finds the path her life is meant to take.

The musical begins in 1937 as Austria is on the cusp of being drawn into a World War, Maria (Kate Fisher) is preparing to become a nun in an Abbey in Austria. The Mother Abbess (Suzanne Ishee), however believes that Maria must find her true calling in life. She is sent to become the governess of 7 children at the household of Captain von Trapp (Tom Galantich) who is a joyless man after the death of his wife. Maria brings music and love, once again, to the household. But when the Captain returns to his villa with the Baroness Elsa (Christine Hunter) and Max (Vinny Genna) to find his household so changed, he finds he, too, is changed by Maria's spunk and freshness. The Captain and Maria marry. Meanwhile, Max, a talent empressario, is impressed by the musicianship of the children and enters them in a competition without the Captain's knowledge. On the Captain and Maria's return from their honeymoon they find that Austria has, indeed, changed that they must plot an escape (using the competition as a ruse) across the Alps to a new land.

4. What MAJOR CHALLENGES does staging this musical present to you as a director -- and to your cast and creative team?

By breaking The Sound Of Music down to its most basic themes--family, love, music, and war I was able to approach each scene and each relationship in a fresh manner. Each actor was chosen, after extensive auditioning, for his/her ability and talent to tell this classic story with a curious, honest way. By approaching the set design, costume design and lighting design each as an integral part of the story-telling we've been able to come together as if working on a new show. In the rehearsal process, the children were taken through extensive acting improvisations to help them approach each scenic situation with fresh eyes. Each scene with the adult actors was first discussed to find its true core before staging so as to find honest freshness in the scene.

5. Please describe the SET:

The set is a beautiful representation of an austere Abbey, and a magnificent Villa--all with the Alps as an opulent backdrop. It is made up of beautifully painted drops and scenery. A great deal of the action takes place outdoors with the Alps as an ever present reminder of the majesty of nature.

6. Please describe the LIGHTING:

The lighting will support, beautifully, the scenery and action on stage.

7. Please describe the COSTUMES:

The costumes are all period specific costumes appropriate to the story. All of the costumes have an Austria flavor.

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