When Lyric Opera called for young people to audition for the seven von Trapp children in its spring production of “The Sound of Music,” a whopping 227 showed up.
Eleven-year-old Isabelle Roberts of Glencoe, who has been cast as Brigitta in the Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbuster, was among the group who turned out last June.
“I read some dialogue from the script and sang two songs, ‘Do, Re Mi’ and ‘So Long, Farewell,’ the one the family uses when they are escaping,” she said.
Isabelle, a sixth grader at Central School in Glencoe, not only acts, but also studies piano and plays percussion.
“When I got a call back in November I had actually forgotten about the audition,” Isabelle admitted. She made the cut again and in January was called back for two consecutive audition sessions. “After the first audition, some of us were told to come back the next day and sing ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ and ‘The Sound of Music,’” she continued. “We just had one night to prepare the songs.”
“In January a group of 91 local children were presented to us over three days at Simon Casting,” said Lyric’s associate artistic administrator Christoph Ptack, adding that he, conductor Rob Fisher, director Marc Bruni, and Michael Black, Lyric’s chorus master made the decisions.”
The final audition included singing in harmony, which was the hallmark of the Von Trapp Family Singers. “There were a lot of kids there,” Isabelle remembered, “and different people running around. It was very stressful.”
Barely 20 minutes after Isabelle left the audition, her mother Michelle’s phone rang. “We weren’t even home yet,” Michelle said, “and we found out that she had a part.”
“Mom screamed,” Isabelle remembered. “I was starving and she took me to McDonald’s.”
Nicole Scimeca, 6, of Park Ridge won the part of the youngest von Trapp child, Gretl, but her tender age has been no problem. “Her first part was when she was two years old,” said her mother Gail. “She was Little Sal and danced in the ‘Shipoopi’ number in ‘The Music Man.’
“Our whole family is in community theater,” Gail continued, “and Nicole has been in lots of shows.”
“I was a pickpocket in ‘Oliver!’ and I played an enchanted sugar cube in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” Nicole chimed in.
The first-grader at Roosevelt Elementary School in Park Ridge has been in several television commercials including one for Vanderbilt University’s Children’s Hospital and another for Advocate Hospital. She also has appeared in print ads for American Girl and the Land of Nod. She currently takes singing and dancing lessons.
“Nicole has an amazing attention span,” her mother continued. “She likes being with people.”
Gail Scimeca was in Target when she got the call that Nicole had made it through the entire audition process and was cast as Gretl. “I screamed,” she admitted, and then arranged the family’s schedule to accommodate six rehearsals a week.
Once the production opens the children will appear in eight shows a week, half matinee, half evening. Due to ticket demand, four additional performances have been added to the previously announced schedule.
The role of Captain von Trapp will be played by Chicago native Billy Zane, whose film credits include James Cameron’s “Titanic.” Jenn Gambatese of Broadway is cast as Maria.
Also featured are Broadway and television star Edward Hibbert as impresario Max Detweiler, sopranos Christine Brewer as the Mother Abbess and Elizabeth Futral as Elsa Schraeder. In addition to Roberts and Scimeca, the children will be played by Betsy Farrar as Liesl; Brady Tutton as Friedrich; Julia Schweizer as Louisa; Michael Harp as Kurt; KyLee Hennes as Marta, and Zach Sorrow as Rolf.