the cast of Sound of Music singing during a performance

Hartke Theatre was alive with alumni pride at packed performances of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s beloved The Sound of Music this past fall. After the debut of the heartfelt homage to the original Broadway show, all three subsequent shows sold out.

Musical theater junior Emma Markey, who grew up idolizing Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp in the 1965 film adaptation, said it is a dream come true to star in the show and share the character’s infectious joy with a live audience.

“Mother Abbess, right before she sings ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain,’ tells Maria ‘you have a great capacity to love,’” said Markey. “Watching the movie is amazing, but I feel like when you’re here, in the room, it’s easier to share the love with everyone.”

The enduring classic, inspired by the true story of how postulant-turned-governess Maria transformed the lives of widower Captain Georg von Trapp and his family, has been seen countless times by millions across the globe. But director Tracy Lynn Olivera, B.M. 1999, said few have heard the big, bold sound of the music as originally intended to fill a pe formance hall.

With 38 cast members and a 30-plus-piece live orchestra, Olivera said the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art production is larger than any musical on Broadway today. “Our huge ensembles create a giant choral sound,” said Olivera, comparing the 20 playing nuns singing together to “a wall of angels.”

Music Director Marc Bryan Lilley, B.M. 2006, head of the musical theater academic area, said the passion for the project was evident in the mountains people climbed to realize the dream of assembling the first full orchestra for a University production in years. Thanks to the unaway success, he expects more shows of this scale.

“You can appreciate the story without being Catholic, but the story resonates especially with so many in our community because it’s about the power of faith and family,” said Lilley.

For Jose Sousa, B.A. 2001, it is a tradition at family reunions to say grace to the tune of “Edelweiss.” Now, Sousa said it’s all “coming full circle” with his son Carlos, 11, learning his “do-re-mi’s” as Kurt von Trapp.

“It’s been great to reconnect with some familiar faces from my time at Catholic University and to experience how surreal it is to have our children in this cast,” said the proud father. “The talent and dedication shown by everyone involved in the production is really inspiring and showcases how fortunate we are to have the Rome School in our backyard.”

This was Carlos’ first play but far from his first performance. He’s always loved to sing with or without an audience, according to his family. “It’s a fun role, and I have a lot of funny lines,” said Carlos. “I really liked the party scene, where I sing ‘So Long, Farewell’ because people went crazy when I hit the high note,” he said, referring to when Kurt sings a scene-stealing “goodbye.”

Carlos was among three of the seven playing the Von Trapp siblings who were from alumni families. Elizabeth Roberts, B.M. 2004, and her husband Merrill, M.S. 2009, Ph.D. 2018, met when they both were studying at the University. Elizabeth said watching their son, Alan, 14, play Friedrich brings back fond memories of her performances on the very same stage when she was an undergraduate musical theater student.

“It’s been really, really fun,” said Elizabeth. Alan is one of six siblings, so he has plenty of experience to draw from for the role. “We’re one short of the Von Trapp family. It’s like typecasting,” said Merrill with a chuckle.

Reflecting on the experience, Alan said one of his fa orite things was getting a taste of what studying drama is like at the University.

“It’s one of the better musical theater programs in the country. It’s been a great look at CatholicU and the culture,” he said.

The Sound of Music was presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.