The cheerful music, the sweeping landscape, the love between a woman and a man.
The story of a family in 1930s Austria just before and after Hitler took power in Germany and the Nazi Party’s atrocities began to spread across Europe will come to the ShenanArts stage this weekend and next weekend.
Director Jennifer Vaughan said she knows that “The Sound of Music” is a lot of people’s all-time favorite movie. She has loved it since she was a child, sitting on the edge of her seat anticipating what would happen next.
“It’s such a good story — it is a love story,” Vaughan, who has lived in Staunton for 30 years, said. However, the production is not just a love story between a young woman named Maria and a widower called the Captain. It is a story about love of country, music and family. “It’s a love story in a lot of different aspects.”
“The Sound of Music” is also a story about bravery and courage.
“I think for the entire cast, particularly the younger members of our cast, that really kind of brought home the fact we’re telling, at least in part, a real story about real people and the struggles that they had,” Vaughan said. She said, as the director, she could never have explained the importance of the family’s decision to leave Austria. And the fact that even in 2023, we still need to stand up for what is right.
The show highlights a multi-generational cast of 40 actors, with the youngest being 7 years old.
The cast was able to meet an individual who makes the story about a real family. Elizabeth “Tizzy” von Trapp Walker lives in Waynesboro and is a pastor in Staunton. She is the Captain’s granddaughter, and the daughter of his oldest child, his son, Rupert. Hollywood took liberties with the movie and made the oldest von Trapp child a daughter.
“I think [her visit] gave us an even greater depth to the story,” Vaughan, a former educator with Augusta County Public Schools for 28 years, said.
Vaughan said that the cast received an important message from Walker about the importance of having enough bravery to leave your home and your friends.
“What we learned from her is that message still needs to go out today to stand up for what’s right and be courageous even when it’s hard,” Vaughan said.
Walker shared with the cast that, as the family story goes, the Captain told his seven children that they could stay in Austria and have their family and friends or they could do what was right. “If we lose our integrity, we’ve lost everything,” the Captain told his children.
Vaughan said that Walker refers to Maria as “Grandma Maria.” Only one of the von Trapp children is still alive: a child of the Captain’s and Maria’s.
Vaughan has been with ShenanArts for nearly 15 years. She said she hopes audience members enjoy the charm and the love of the show, but, the show has more depth, because the story is about a real family who made a tough decision to leave their home.
Fans of the movie will notice subtle differences with the stage production, which was created before the 1965 film. The stage production is missing two songs that are in the movie. “The Sound of Music” was the final collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein.
On Thursday afternoon, Vaughan, who also serves as set designer and realization coordinator, was painting the set with crew members.
“The actors are ready for the audience,” Vaughan said.
“The Sound of Music” will be performed Friday, March 10, Saturday, March 11, Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m. The Sunday, March 12 show is sold out.
ShenanArts is at 300 Churchville Ave., Staunton. Tickets are available online.