(PCM) Nineteen-year-old Kerstin Anderson was a student at Pace University when she decided to audition for the leading role of Maria in the new national tour of “Sound of Music.”
After auditioning hundreds of lovely young actresses, the show’s director, Jack O’Brien said he had always believed the role of Maria Rainer was a ‘star-making’ part, rather than the leading role everyone remembers from the movies.
Anderson was looking for experience in auditioning and put her best foot forward, not expecting to land a major role. The director says that he had his sights on just the right young woman for this leading role.
“So I went looking for someone with star-making magic,” O’Brien explained. “In through the audition door one day walked Vermont native Kerstin Anderson, still studying at Pace University in New York. With her tomboy persona and country girl appeal, she opened her mouth, she sang, and the tears welled up in my eyes.”
While this is the first tour and many other firsts for the now 21-year-old charming musical theater actress, the show, and the film of the same name, has quite an impressive history. In fact, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful – and beloved — movie musical in history.
The lavish new production plays at the Academy of Music from March 15-20, before continuing on its whirlwind tour.
“The Sound of Music,” is one of the most successful and celebrated movie musicals of all time,” said Anne Ewers, president & CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. ”It’s the perfect way to pay tribute to the beloved songs and story that fans have grown up with.”
The production features music by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and a book by Howard Linsay and Russel Crouse. The national tour stars Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp (Broadway’s Violet, A Little Night Music, La Bohème), Ashley Brown as The Mother Abbess (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins, NBC’s The Sound of Music).
Before going on tour with “The Sound of Music, Anderson played Clara in the Pace production of “Light in the Piazza,” directed by Victoria Clark. Her other Pace theater credits include: “The Visit,”(Annie, Dir. John Doyle). Her regional theater credits include: “My Name is Annie King,” (Mav, Scene Space); and “Best Little Whorehouse.” (Shy, The Forestburgh Playhouse).
Her supportive family in Vermont is cheering her as she makes her way across the country in this beloved musical.
Q: So Kerstin, where is the tour today?
KERSTIN ANDERSON: Atlanta, Georgia.
Q: Where did the tour begin?
KA: We opened in L.A. in September.
Q: Tell me about this amazing audition process and finding out you were going to play Maria
KA: I was just finishing my sophomore year at Pace University and got an appointment to audition. I grew up watching the movie and knew the beautiful music. I was really just cutting my teeth going to auditions and had been on a few professional ones before this. I went to go and learn – I did not expect anything. I went and sang “The Sound of Music,” and got one call back and then more call backs. I was doing it for the producers and soon after they asked me if I wanted to see the country. It was unbelievable!
Q: Sounds a little bit like the plot for 42nd Street.
KA: You could say that.
Q: So who from your friends and family has seen the tour?
KA: My family has seen it and that was wonderful. There is something very special when people you love see the work you care about – it seems so real. I loved it! My friends will probably come to Philly since many of them live in New York.
Q: What do you love about the character of Maria?
KA: First of all I grew up in Vermont, so I knew the legacy of the story and have always appreciated “The Sound of Music.” I had seen the movie many times and several stage productions. I grew up about an hour away from the actual Von Trapp Family Lodge, so I also knew quite a bit about the family. We studied them in school; it’s very familiar to me.
Q: What was it like growing up in Vermont?
KA: I am an outdoors person. I may be the only Vermont native who doesn’t ski. But I like to hike and we used to go ice skating in my friend’s back yard pond, when I wasn’t in rehearsal for school productions.
Q: Are there any surprises in this production?
KA: This production has two additional songs, “How Can Love Survive,” and “No Way To Stop It,” they are songs for Elsa and Max. So some people are surprised to know about that. We’ve also put the song “Something Good” in the gazebo.
Q: Tell me your history as a singer and musical theater actress?
KA: I first started when I lived in Ireland for a year and my older sister took an interest in the theater. But I didn’t take it seriously as a career until high school. I studied voice and acting and musical theater at Pace. Then I ended up here – right where I want to be.
Q: Will you return to college when the tour is over?
KA: I hope so. I think so. This is happening for a year and I left school for a year I can pick up where I left off. I really loved being a student.
Q: Tell me about life on the road.
KA: It has its difficulties. Mostly, it is fun and exciting. There is a new city every week I make sure to talk to my family and friends. It can be both monotonous and chaotic at the same time. You do the same things every day, but you do them in a new city which makes it very exciting.
Q: Any perks?
KA: Yes, I am coffee shop hopping across America.
Q: Sounds like a great name for a travel blog; don’t you agree?
KA: Why not?
Q: How is Atlanta?
KA: We got here yesterday and I have to find my coffee shop, a place where you can sit and do work. It has to have crunchy granola, good coffee and home-like vibe.
Q: Are there tricks you employ on the road to make it feel more homey?
KA: Yes, when I am not working I explore the towns and cities. I have been trying to find a museum in each town. In Atlanta, I will go to the aquarium and look for culture and history that are specific to the towns that we are in. I am looking forward to spring because everything will be in bloom
Q: Have you been to Philadelphia before?
KA: No, I never have. I love the historical cities. I can’t wait.
Q: What is the dream you had of a career versus the reality?
KA: The dream is the reality. I am doing it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with all of it.
Q: What is the most surprising aspect of the tour?
KA: Before this I had never done a show for more than 14 performances. So I am thrilled and surprised that I actually have the capability to do a show eight shows a week for weeks on end. Through ups and downs and crazy life on tour, the show is like going home; it’s the best part. So, I have felt I truly made the right career choice.
Q: Do you have career advice for young actresses at any stage in their career?
KS: The best two pieces of advices I ever received were: First, to be unafraid to be uniquely you, and secondly, to just work hard. Being willing to share all the odds and ends of who you are — the good the bad and the ugly — so people will see the truth on stage. So be unique and work hard.
Q: Why should people come to see this production of “The Sound of Music?”
KA: It’s a wonderful production. It takes an old classic and breaths life into the scenes. Jack has brought it back to life. It was a little like another classic, “Sleeping Beauty.” No one dared to touch it in a long time. It feels like the piece is fresh and the songs are lovable. The movie is always there and is beloved. And it’s live theater, so that’s also a wonderful thing. What I love about a live production is that it will never happen the same way twice. Coming to see the live production is worth it!
Q: Your director, Jack O’Brien, said he found you charming, saw you as a star in the making and that your heart-felt musical audition made him cry. So how do you respond to that?
KA: When I read his kind words I had to hold back the tears. Then I ran and called my dad and read it to him. I feel so honored and grateful that I get to be here doing something that I love every night. It is a real gift.
For tickets or information about “The Sound of Music” at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia go to: visiting www.kimmelcenter.org, go to the Kimmel Center Box Office or call. 215 893-1999. For tickets for groups of 10 or more call 215 790-5883.
For more tour information, please go to: www.TheSoundOfMusicOnTour.com.