This year marks the 25th anniversary production of the Sound of Music and the first year back after the coronavirus pandemic. Since the statewide reopening, many aspects of the performances have returned to normal. But that wasn’t always the case.
Phil Lacey, Executive Director of Leavenworth Summer Theater (LST) said that the last several months have been very uncertain in regard to how the coronavirus restrictions would be rolled back. Because of that, LST decided to just focus on producing the Sound of Music.
“We were kind of hoping against all hope we would be able to produce this year,” said Lacey.
As Executive Director, Lacey plans the rehearsals, puts together the schedules and insurance waivers and does other behind the scenes things. He basically does all of the “non glamorous” aspects of making theater.
The audience is incredibly excited to be able to go out to the theater again, Lacey said. The cast and crew are so happy to be able to see each other, make art together and give high fives. It was not hard to find cast members this year, despite the uncertainty during the pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, auditions had to be virtual, Lacey said. Auditions took place in late winter and early spring and most of the country was still shut down. Surprisingly, Leavenworth Summer Theater received a record number of auditions. Since they were one of the few companies trying to move forward during the pandemic, that caught people’s attention.
The theater received about 400 total auditions, 250 adults and 150 kids, said Lacey. The cast has a total of 44 people. About a third of the cast is coming in from out of the area, so the majority who act in the show are local.
“There is an incredibly talented performers here in the valley and we rely on them every year and are thrilled that they're involved,” said Lacey
For those who are from out of town, LST has been able to help cast members with housing for the first time. A community member in Peshastin who runs several homes as Airbnb’s is working with LST to provide housing for actors who are not local.
The Sound of Music started rehearsing on June 13th, so the cast had about three weeks of rehearsal before opening night. It takes “an incredible amount of work” to pull together a show in three weeks, said Lacey.
Tiffany Mausser, the director and choreographer for Leavenworth Summer Theater, worked seven days a week for six to eight hours a day for about 21 consecutive days to prepare for the show, said Lacey. The actors were not there the whole time as people rehearsed different parts of the show at different times.
Mausser has directed for many years in the past, said Lacey. She was originally contracted to direct Music Man for LST, but when they were unable to perform that musical she offered to direct the Sound of Music.
The show also has three music directors: Susan Wagner, Susan Gubsch and Ally Atwood. Wagner directed for the soloists. Gubsch directed for the nuns. Atwood was the kids vocal director.
Gubsch has been a part of LST since the beginning, said Lacey. She has been an actor in the plays every single year except for one and plays Mother Abbess. Besides acting, she works with the kids, helps backstage and talks to patrons.
“She's honestly more of a tradition than the show itself is. And people have come for years and really love her performance,” Lacey said.
The Sound of Music is based on a true story and is based during the time leading up to World War II, Lacey said. In Austria, a family of seven children, a widowed father, and a young nun who is sent from an abbey to be a governess escape from the Nazis through the mountains of Switzerland.
The nun taught the children how to sing. After escaping the Nazis, the family toured around Europe and the US singing in order to survive. Although certain aspects of the play, like the choice of songs in the musical, may not be songs that the family actually sang, much of the story is true.
LST has been working hard to make sure that no one who comes in contact with production ends up getting sick, Lacey said. Until June 30, LST only sold about half the seats so the audience could be distanced. The stage was built to be larger than normal to accommodate past social distance requirements.
During the pandemic, LST received a lot of support from local agencies, said Lacey. The Icicle Fund gave LST a substantial grant that helped them to produce this year. LST also received federal aid from the Payroll Protection Program and the Shuttered Venues Operators Act.
There is still time to catch The Sound of Music. Leavenworth Summer Theater still has tickets and is performing through August 21. According to the LST website, performances will take place at 8 p.m. at the Leavenworth Ski Hill location.