By Sarah Elmquist Squires
You might have every song memorized, you may spin and twirl your skirt every time you skip through a field, but if you’ve never seen “The Sound of Music” on stage, you’re missing out. For one thing, the stage version of the Rogers and Hammerstein play includes two songs that aren’t included in the iconic movie version. “Seeing the show live is just a different kind of experience,” explained Joey West, Central Wyoming College’s (CWC) instructor of theater and the show’s director. “With our cast, you’re going to be blown away.”
CWC will stage the beloved musical beginning this Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m. Evening performances will be held on March 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 5.
One of the most exciting things about CWC’s “The Sound of Music” is the community involvement, West shared. “This show is the largest one I’ve directed as far as numbers of people,” he said – with over 60 performers to take the stage and another 15 working off-stage. A handful are theater students, and the rest are community members. During one sequence, everyone in the cast has learned the same dance, and West said it’s a stunning moment to see more than 30 couples on stage dancing together.
One such community member who’s stepped to the stage is eight-year-old Evangeline Rosty, who will perform in the kids chorus during the show. “I’m really happy and excited and just a teensy [bit] nervous,” she shared. She said she’s performed in front of lots of people in plays at school, which has helped her conquer her stage fright, though. Her mother, Becky, said the experience of being involved in the CWC production has been wonderful. “We just moved to Riverton, so this has been a great way to meet people and get acquainted with the community,” she shared.
West said the swell of support from the public has been touching, and part of the reason the college chose “The Sound of Music” was to regain those community connections following the Covid pandemic, which curbed a lot of theater opportunities. “It’s probably one of the most famous musicals that’s out there, and I love the story, but I did it because I thought we need to get people to come back to the theater,” he said. “It’s an important story to tell right now … tell the story of survival in times of adversity.”
When the call for auditions was made, West said he wasn’t sure what he’d find. But, “It was a miracle. It was really, really neat to see that much support and involvement from people,” he shared. “I didn’t realize how much they loved the story.”
Casting the production was a tough call. West said he could have cast each character three times over and still had a stellar show. Leslie Drollinger Stratmoen, who plays Mother Abbess, had volunteered for years helping with costumes in other theater productions, and West said she’s been such a stage mother to the young performers. “It’s been a rehearsal of healing, but also building support,” he added.
West has himself performed several roles in “The Sound of Music,” including his first paid acting gig, when he took on the part of Uncle Max. The movie version featuring Julie Andrews is the kind of feel-good movie a person can watch and just know they’re in for a satisfying night. But on stage, it’s a different experience entirely. “There’s something that happens when you’re inside of a theater that is a collective experience,” he said. “You get an energy from performers to you, and you give back energy.” Laughter and emotions from the crowd fuel a shared atmosphere that brings the story to life. “I can’t wait to have the audience share with us,” he said. “It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears – mostly sweat and tears,” he joked. “I’m just so proud of the cast we have.”
Get your tickets today! Tickets are $12 for adults; seniors and youth are $10. They are available in-person at the box office at the Robert A. Peck Arts Center, which is open from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, by phone at 307-855-2002 or 1-800-865-0190, ext. 2002, and online at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/central-wyoming-college-arts-center-11064083211.