BROCKWAY — The Sound of Music will fill the halls at Brockway Junior/Senior High School at the end of March.

The spring musical production is returning to a favorite show, this time with bigger sets and a new, excited cast that director Justin Salada thinks is perfect

“The students that are currently involved in the drama club are a perfect fit for the cast of this production,” he said. “This, combined with the support of so many musicians, has come together to allow us to approach such a large production.”

The Sound of Music is the final collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and possibly their most beloved work. Following the story of Maria, who does not fit in at a convent and becomes a governess for a widowed naval captain’s seven children, The Sound of Music is known far and wide. It is also one of Brockway senior Cecilia Manno’s favorite movies. This is a plus, since she will be playing Maria in her final Brockway stage performance.

“I’ve loved movies with Julie Andrews since I was very little,” Manno said.

For co-star Phillip Shifter, who plays Captain von Trapp, understanding the role comes from the script and YouTube videos.

“I have never seen the movie, but I’ve read the script, and I have seen many variations online of my part,” Shifter said. “I like trying to put a different emphasis on a word or doing something softer than others would have. I had to learn how to play the Boson’s whistle!”

The production in Brockway is mostly starring high school students, but this year’s production also includes younger actors as the von Trapp Children.

“There are many challenges to face in staging a large musical production,” Salada said. “The biggest challenge in this play is working with young elementary students and getting them ready for a high school production. They have to put in a lot of work to catch up with their older peers.”

For Manno, the kids allow her to practice being Maria.

“Keeping the kids in line is one of the hardest parts,” she laughed. “Singing is tough, too. I’m an emotional person, I have a clear picture in my mind, but I have to learn to respect other people’s interpretations. In real life, you don’t know what another person is thinking.”

Manno and Shifter praised the set for this year’s production. Salada called it a “multi-layered design.” They have the second floor, but they expanded the depth of the stage they use. In addition, they even got to reuse pieces of The Hunchback of Notre Dame set in this production.

“Once an audience sees or experiences a certain level of performance from a group, they come to expect that or more every time they return,” Salada said. “If you improve a little bit every year, this effect continues to stack on itself. Those expectations cause that pressure to improve.”

“The sets are very interesting,” Shifter said. “This one is very grand. There are many ways to exit the stage. We even go into the pit area more with some scenes.”

“I think the set is fabulous,” Manno added. “I was not in Hunchback, and I thought the set was beautiful. I think Mr. Salada does such a good job. The stairs, kids fall up it all the time because they’re not watching where their feet are going.”

No matter how magnificent the set, a musical is made or broken by its music.

“The pit this year is comprised of students and adults ranging in experience from junior high to doctoral level,” Salada said. “It is one of the largest and most gifted pits that I have been able to bring together.”

“This music is very challenging, in the fact that it goes lower than I’m used to singing,” Shifter said. “But this it’s more an acting role than a singing role. In Hunchback, I did more singing. Here, I do more acting. I like to experiment with the way I speak to characters – being softer to some and mean to others.”

Manno is excited that she gets to sing that iconic song. She spreads her arms and spins around singing, “The hills are aliiiiivveee with the sound of music!”

Manno’s enthusiasm when talking about the role is similar to Salada’s excitement to stage the production.

“The Sound of Music is one of the most beloved examples of American Musical Theater that is put on by local schools,” he said. “But beyond the cultural significance, this is a production that over 50 students have been involved in. They are putting this together for their community and their school, and everyone deserves to witness the fruits of their efforts. I could not have asked for a better group of students to put on this production. They are doing great things!”

“People should come to see it because it’s The Sound of Music,” Manno said. “It’s not depressing. It’s a family show. It’s my favorite musical of all time, so everyone should love it.”

Manno and the cast will take to the hills March 21-24 in the auditorium at the Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School. Curtain time on Thursday through Saturday is at 7 p.m. Sunday’s show is at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the door or at https://rovers.ticketleap.com/the-sound-of-music/dates.

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