Richmond will come alive with The Sound of Music

"The hills are alive with the sound of music."

Who doesnt remember that iconic line from the multiple Academy award-winning movie, The Sound of Music?

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The story of the von Trapp family has touched the hearts of young and old alike for more than 40 years.

When Vancouver actor Ian Butcher heard the Gateway Theatre was producing The Sound of Music, he wasted no time jumping at the opportunity to audition.

"Captain von Trapp was definitely a role I wanted to play," said the 41-year-old Butcher.

"I knew I could play him and although I havent done a lot of musicals, this was one I didnt want to miss out on."

The Shakespearian-trained actor and alumni of Studio 58 said his years of performing with Bard on the Beach definitely helped him to prepare for his audition for von Trapps character.

"He was a navy officer, a kingly sort of character, similar to some men Ive played with Bard on the Beach," he said. "Georg had a lot of walls up and his naval experience shaped his family life after his wife died."

The movie told the dramatized, but true, story of Maria von Kutschera, a nun-in-training in the Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg in Salzburg.

She was sent by her Mother Superior to be the governess for Baron Georg Ritter von Trapp a rather stiff and proper ex-commander from the former Austro-Hungarian Navy.

The recently widowed von Trapp who had seven children, Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina needed a governess for the sickly Maria.

"The captain has walls up. Hes lived by the rules and discipline of the navy for so long that hes forgotten how to deal with his children in a loving manner," he said. "With the help of Maria, he goes from a discipline man to a vulnerable one at the end of the play."

Butcher, who spoke to the News during a break in rehearsals, said he does feel a little pressure playing such "a beloved character."

"Everybody will have that comparison to the movie, especially of Christopher Plummers von Trapp, but the stage version has a different quality and more interpretation of the captain," added Butcher. "Its a wonderful challenge to portray so many facets of his personality.

"I THINK VON TRAPP WAS CHALLENGED BECAUSE HE WAS DEALING WITH THE PASSING OF HIS WIFE, WHILE TRYING TO RAISE HIS SEVEN CHILDREN."

This two-hour production is one of the Gateways largest, with a cast of 30 and a 10-piece orchestra.

"Its a great cast and we all get along so well," said Butcher. "The music and the dancing are great, and I think the audience will love the dramatic ending."

The film was originally based on the book, The Von Trapp Family Singers, by Maria von Trapp (1949), as well as adapted from Rodgers and Hammersteins 1959 Broadway hit.

The Gateway production is not a true version of the movie, said its director Christopher McGregor.

"The audience will get a lot of extra surprises I wanted to find different approaches to a scene and offer something different," said the seasoned director of 15 years.

"I want to give the audience a journey, to have them totally engaged in the play and have them believe theyve never seen the play before.

"Its a tall order but Im not interested in doing the movie."

The play takes place between June 1937 and March 1938.

"There are lots of authentic 1937 military costumes and suits in the play," said McGregor, who has a Masters in directing from the University of B.C.

"In the ballroom scene, our costume designer Carmen Alatorre, found a beautiful 1930 princess dress for Maria.

"She researched dresses and suits online to be as authentic as possible."

The opportunity to direct such a much-loved story was too good to pass up for the award-winning director.

"The Sound of Music has meant so much to so many people for a variety of reasons, whether its the music, the characters or the themespeople have fallen in love with the story," McGregor said.

"The love of this iconic musical has given me one of my biggest directing challenges.

"I wanted to find balance between what an audience wants and expects, yet at the same time make it fresh, relevant and full of surprises."

The Sound of Music is certainly one of the most popular and beloved musicals of all-time, winning several Tony and Academy Awards in the early1960s.

"When Simon (Johnston, Gateway Theatres executive and artistic director) asked me what I thought the heart of this musical was, I told him it was the family," said McGregor.

"On some level, everyone understands the struggles a family goes through on a day to day basis, so I decided to make this my primary focus in this production.

"Ive worked very hard to illuminate the journey this family takes to overcome their many trials and tribulations."

McGregor went on to say, "The cast is extremely talented and have put in eight hours a day in rehearsals, six days a week for five weeks (except the child actors), without a complaint. The kids are also extremely talented, hard working and very disciplined."

The Gateway Theatre presents its Christmas production of the The Sound of Music, opening Dec. 9 to 31 on the MainStage, 6500 Gilbert Rd. Tickets are available by phoning the theatres box office at 604-270-1812 or online at www.gatewaytheatre.com. Note: Some of the shows, including six out of the seven matinees, are already sold out.

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