http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/04/04/a-favorite-thing


Danville Express

Living - April 4, 2008

A favorite thing

Middle school halls are alive with 'The Sound of Music'

by Meghan Neal

"Let's start at the very beginning - a very good place to start," sings Maria, played by eighth-grader Becca Brown, to the seven von Trapp children gathered around her.

"When you read you begin with A-B-C," she continues, guitar in hand. "When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi."

Even though school's out for spring break, Charlotte Wood Middle Schoolers are here on a Monday afternoon rehearsing "The Sound of Music," which they'll be performing April 10-12.

"We're all friends so we have a lot of fun at the practices," says Amanda Nenni, who is playing Sister Rosalinda, one of the nuns. "It's just fun to be on the stage."

There's still a lot of practicing to do before next week, but the actors' spirits are up as they sing "Do-Re-Mi" over and over - first to get the vocals down, and then add in the choreography.

"We have a lot of enthusiasm," says the choral director, Jennifer Brown. "They love being together, they love singing the songs. They really enjoy it."

There are 78 sixth- through eighth-graders in the production. Brown says she never turns away a student, and she double casts many of the lead roles so more kids get the chance to perform.

Chika Asakawa, who is also playing the part of Maria, sings quietly to herself in the audience while she waits for her turn to practice.

"It's just fun," Asakawa says, adding that the hardest part is memorizing all the lines and lyrics.

Meanwhile up on stage the von Trapp children march as they sing, lined up by age and height.

"Guys, remember: Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect," Brown calls out encouragingly.

She reminds the actors that "Do-Re-Mi" is one of the most memorable songs in the musical and they don't want to let the audience down.

The girls are dressed in authentic, traditional Austrian dresses called dirndls. The boys wear short trousers and socks pulled up to their knees.

"Of course when you put a costume on a middle school kid they think they've died and gone to heaven," Brown laughs.

On show nights, drawings of stained glass windows will hang around the multipurpose room to make it look like a religious abbey. The sets and costumes help set the scene: Salzburg, Austria, right before World War II.

There is a rich historical story behind the cheerful songs and dances in "The Sound of Music." The play is based on a true story in which Navy hero Capt. Georg von Trapp flees to Switzerland with his family when the Nazi Party takes over Austria.

"I have tried to intersperse the history the whole way through," says Brown. "I try to sneak all that in everywhere. All the little bits of the learning."

It's been over an hour and the actors are just getting warmed up - it's a safe bet rehearsal's going to last a while longer. Asakawa seems a bit nervous that the cast won't be ready in time for the show. But Nenni says she thinks they'll pull it off.

"There's always a minor miracle that occurs right before it's time," agrees Brown.

After all, as this uplifting musical teaches us: "When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything."

Popular musical

What: 'The Sound of Music'

Who: Charlotte Wood Middle School

When: 7 p.m., Thursday-Friday, April 10-11; 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 12

Cost: $7.50; for tickets, call 552-5600

Where: Charlotte Wood Middle School, 600 El Capitan Drive, Danville

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