Generations of "Music"
June 1, 2012
"The Sound of Music" premiered on Broadway in 1959. It was a musical, with music by Richard Rodgers and music by Oscar Hammerstein II, based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," and starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel.
The story is about how Maria changed the life of a motherless Von Trapp family during the Nazi occupation in Austria and their flight to freedom.
The musical was adapted into a film in 1965 and started Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, and not only won the Best Picture Oscar, but also became the highest-grossing film at that time, replacing "Gone With the Wind," according to the Internet Movie Data Base.
Since then, it has entertained generations with its songs "Do-Re-Mi," "Edelweiss" and "My Favorite Things."
For two Park City residents, Heather Menzies Urich and Ally Ioannides, the role of the third child Louisa, has a special meaning.
Menzies Urich played Louisa in the film and Ioannides is playing Louisa in the Hale Centre Theatre’s production of "The Sound of Music" this summer.
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A few years ago, the Ioannides’ met Menzies Urich, the wife of the late actor Robert Urich, through a mutual acquaintance and became friends.
Furthermore, Menzies Urich has a daughter, also named Allie, and the two girls performed together in the Egyptian Theatre’s production of "Annie" a couple of years ago.
The Park Record had the opportunity to interview Menzies Urich and Ioannides last week to talk about their thoughts about the "iconic musical.
Menzies Urich remembers
The Sound of Music" is something that will never fade from Heather Menzies Urich’s life.
In 1965, when she was 16, Menzies Urich, who lives in Park City, landed the role of Louisa in the film version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s "The "Sound of Music," directed by Robert Wise.
"We had no clue that it would be as iconic as it has become over the years," said Menzies Urich during an interview. "I’m blessed to have been a part of it."
Menzies Urich had been singing and dancing and taking acting classes in Los Angeles, Calif., since she was 10 or 11 years old and felt she was prepared when she went into the audition.
"There were a lot of kids who auditioned, because they did a nationwide search and even looked at actors from England," she said. "One of the cast members lived in New York and Angela Cartwright, who landed the role of Brigitta Von Trapp was born in England, but was living in L.A. at the time."
Others who auditioned but didn’t make the cut included Jonny Provost, known for his role as Timmy in the "Lassie" movies and Kurt Russell.
"It was fun for me because I grew up watching these kids on TV and they were all there," Menzies Urich said. " ‘Lassie’ was my favorite show, and there I was in this room with Jonny."
When the cast was announced, it was clear Wise knew what he was looking for.
"I think he had a clear picture of these characters and wanted them to be real and not just Broadway versions of the family," Menzies Urich said. "He kept looking until he found the individuals."
Louisa, Menzies Urich said, is such a joyful character and mischievous.
"She was a fun character to perform," she said. "People keep telling me how lucky I was to get the role, but there really isn’t any such thing as luck. It’s all preparation and timing and that’s how I got into it."
Menzies Urich confessed she didn’t know too much about the Von Trapp family going into the production.
"I didn’t necessarily feel any type of pressure (about my character) at the time," she said. "I hadn’t seen the Broadway show and hadn’t really heard of it, but as the filming went on, I gradually got to learn quite a bit about the family."
In fact, she felt so close to the family that while filming the movie’s climax when the family was fleeing from the Nazis, she felt real terror.
"We were really scared at the end, genuinely scared," Menzies Urich said. "But there were other scenes during the filming, like when we start to see the transition of the Captain, that really felt the emotions."
One of Menzies Urich’s most memorable scenes in the film is when the kids sing "Do Re Mi" with Julie Andrews.
"The whole sequence was magical and it was like the very first MTV video because all of a sudden we’re wearing different outfits and running all over the place and the music was coming out of the trees," she said. "It was amazing, although it took weeks to film. The people in Salzburg had no idea what we were doing. They were watching us as we were running down the street dancing."
Another scene that will always be close to Menzies Urich’s heart is the party scene where they sing "So Long, Farewell."
"I remember my father would come to pick me up from the set and he came a little earlier that day and was standing right next to the camera," she said. "He was smiling and beaming at me, and you can kind of see in my eye during the film that I was aware of his presence.
"He is no longer with me, so when I see the film, I remember that and it’s a great memory," she said.
Another gift of being in "The Sound of Music" for Menzies Urich was meeting the real Von Trapp singers, who have since become great friends.
"They call us the ‘Non Trapps,’" she said with a laugh. "They are a gorgeous, beautiful family."
In December, 1999, the ‘Non Trapps’ from the film and the original Broadway cast had the opportunity to sing with the real singers during an event in New York presented by the Austrian Board of Tourism.
"The board set up this celebration because we were instrumental in bringing tourists to Salzburg," Menzies Urich said. "We were all there and, because it was close to Christmas, we got up and sang ‘Silent Night’ together. There was not a dry eye in the house."
These days Menzies Urich is still promoting "The Sound of Music."
"I just returned from a month-long promo tour of a book that has been published that was compiled by the ‘Non Trapps,’" she said. "It’s called the Sound of Music family scrapbook and is a compilation of stuff that was in our bins at home that our mothers had."
The book includes behind-the-scene photos, ticket replicas and even a copy of the casting call sheet.
"It’s called a ‘treasure book’ and there are some interactive pages that have envelops with goodies the reader can pull out and examine," Menzies Urich said. "All the things in the book belonged to us, and it’s available http://www.amazon.com .
There are also autographed copies of the book available at http://www.somfamilyscrapbook.com
"The book is very popular and it sold out so we had to restock it," she said.
In addition, Menzies Urich is overseeing the Robert Urich Foundation for Cancer Research. (http://www.urichfoundation.org .)
Robert Urich, who appeared in the 1970’s TV series "S.W.A.T." and "Vegas" died of synovia sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, Menzies Urich said.
"The foundation has been around for a couple of years," she explained. "We also had the Urich Foundation for Cancer Research at the University of Michigan, something he started specifically for sarcoma. It’s under the U of Michigan’s umbrella, and I wanted to have a little more control and wanted to make it available for all types of cancers."
Menzies Urich wanted the foundation to offer opportunities her husband didn’t when he was diagnosed.
"Right now if someone develops a rare form of cancer and live in Nebraska, they have to go to a facility that does specific research on that cancer and that means the family basically has to move there and get an apartment, which insurance won’t pay for," she said. "So, my pie-in-the-sky goal is to have living facilities next to comprehensive cancer centers where people can go and stay while they or their family members are being treated."
Recently, the foundation held a fundraiser in Los Angeles with the Sarcoma Foundation of America.
"We had Rufus Wainwright sing and he has been very supportive of what we do because he lost his mother, folk singer Katie McGarrible, to sarcoma two years ago," Menzies Urich said.
Another performer was Anthony Federov, the fourth-place finalist in the fourth season of "American Idol," who lost his brother to sarcoma.
"If I can make a little difference in my lifetime as far as that’s concerned, that would make me very happy," Menzies Urich said.
Ioannides looks forward
Park City resident Ally Ioannides, an eighth grader at the Madeleine School Choir in Salt Lake, is excited to land the role of Louisa in the Hale Centre Theatre’s production of "The Sound of Music."
The musical runs from June 6 through Aug. 4.
Although Ioannides, 14, has been involved with productions at the Egyptian Theatre and Pioneer Theatre Company, this is her first show with the Hale Centre.
"Hale is an amazing theatre and they are very professional," Ioannides said during an interview. "The director, Chris Clark, is great and the musical director, Ann Puzey, is excellent and I love working with the choreographer Marilyn May Montgomery. They are on the same level of professionalism and they are very nice there."
When Ioannides auditioned earlier this year, she wanted to be Lousia.
"Just looking at the cast list, Louisa was the role I was most fit for," she said. "I’m around Lousia’s age and she’s just a happy person.
"There is a line in the show that says, ‘Louisa just wants to play’ and that’s easy for me, because I love to play," Ioannides said. "When it comes down to it, Louisa just wants to have a good time and I think she’s a really good character for me to relate to.
Ever since I was young, I used to make up my own games."
To prepare for the role, the actress decided to not watch the film for a few months.
"I don’t want to play Louisa like she is in the movie, and also when you’re in a well-known show, the director will sometimes tell the cast not to watch the movie or video, because he wants the production to be fresh and original, too," Ioannides said. "I was able to come up with my own ideas."
"The Sound of Music" is one of the Ioannides’ family’s favorite musicals.
"I first saw the movie when I was really young and I’ve seen it a few times," she said. "I love the movie, and I think everyone loves it, because when I talk with people they always tell me they know it."
Ioannides likes the production because of its uplifting message about how music can change people’s lives.
"It’s a joyful show and has a positive message and has a positive outcome," she said. "I feel that when I’m performing in the musical. I feel so happy and I know the rest of cast does, too.
"There are scenes we do with Maria (played alternately by Cecily Ellis-Bills and Megan Heaps) and we have to be loud and laugh a lot and I think that comes naturally to the kids who are in the cast. I think that’s the spirit of the show."
Ioannides’ favorite scene is when the cast sings "Do-Re-Mi."
"I also like ‘My Favorite Things’ and Louisa likes those scenes, too, because she’s dong what she does best, which is to have fun," she said. "I love to sing. It brings so much joy to me and I can understand those kids feeling of having no music in the house and then all of a sudden having music and being opened up emotionally."
The musical’s storyline means a lot to Ioannides.
"The kids really needed mother, because before Maria comes into their home, their lives were pretty grim and structured, but when she gets there they learn to sing and they really learn to live," she said.
Ioannides likes how the change begins to affect the Captain, played in repertoire by Matthew Dobson and Mark Knowles.
"I think the first time we notice the father is welcoming music in the household is when we sing ‘The Sound of Music’ for him," she said. "It’s right after he’s told Maria to leave, but then he starts to sing with us. There is a wonderful connection and it brings us together."
As for the darker elements of the story pertaining to the Nazis, Ioannides said she tries to put herself in Louisa’s shoes.
"As a kid, I don’t think Louisa understands what’s going on until the family is hiding and then it becomes real for her," she said. "It actually becomes real for me, too, because I get scared in that scene."
The Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley, will present "The Sound of Music" from Wednesday, June 6, through Saturday, Aug. 4. Curtain is Monday through Saturday is 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets start at $24 for adults and $15 for children ages five through 11. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.halecentretheatre.org or by calling (801) 984-9000.