The hills of Spokane Valley are alive with the sound of music, thanks to a group of high school students, many of them Latter-Day Saints.
Central Valley High School’s drama department is currently presenting Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, “The Sound of Music,” and involved in the production are numerous LDS youth, including 14 cast members, five crew members and a number of others involved in the pit orchestra.
In addition to the spring production, the Central Valley campus includes a strong LDS population. Brandon Carter of the Pines Ward, Spokane East Stake says “We all know each other, and everyone knows who we are.” He believes that the drama genre often draws more LDS participants because of the music and because the shows tend to be more family-oriented.
“The Sound of Music” also has a strong spiritual focus. Carter says that other cast members who played nuns would listen to spiritual music, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in order to get themselves in the right frame of mind.
Central Valley High School’s production of “The Sound of Music” includes many students from local LDS wards. Natalie Martinez (left) plays the Mother Abbess and Maitlin Stewart portrays Maria Rainer. Contributed Photo.
Ashton Toth, a member of the Belle Terre Ward, Spokane East Stake, points out that another reason so many LDS youth are involved in theater is because they are taught to talk and sing in church as part of Primary, Young Men and Young Women programs.
However, both Carter and Toth make it clear that being comfortable on stage is not the only reason they participate in theater.
“I like how you can share a story with the audience and you can bring them into that world,” Carter said. In speaking of a recent play he was involved in, he says, “When you can take Shakespeare’s language and still convey the story to the audience – that is really rewarding.”
As much as Toth loves acting, he admits the role he was cast in for “The Sound of Music” has been a challenge. He plays Herr Zeller, or as he says, “…the Nazi that everybody hates.”
“I’m not really a mean guy, so it’s hard, but it’s also been a little fun to explore out of my comfort zone,” he said.
Toth’s favorite type of character to play is one where he gets to be who he is, “the ones where you don’t really have to act. You can just be yourself.”
Although Toth does not have too many singing parts in the play, he comes from a musical family, one where his mom would sing opera instead of yelling when she got mad. Carter, on the other hand, comes from an athletic family, who nevertheless encouraged him to pursue his own interests.
Another participant who has grown up with a strong music background is David Ross, of the Evergreen Ward, Spokane East Stake. He is the pianist for the pit orchestra, a role that requires patience, versatility, and composure.
“You have to watch the conductor carefully, but you also have to be tuned into the actors because the conductor is following them,” Ross said. “Sometimes you have to cut early, or skip ahead or jump around in the music, because you have to make the people on stage look good.”
It’s a critical and important job that, when it works best, is rarely noticed by the audience.
Ross has played the piano since he was 6 and didn’t really like it at first, but over the years grew to love the keyboard and also plays the trombone and organ. He has played in the pit orchestra for a number of musicals including “Brigadoon” and “Oliver.”
Ross said he was especially excited for “The Sound of Music,” but not quite as excited as his mother, Sandy, who is a huge fan. And although Ross likes playing at church and school, his musical dreams reach much farther.
“The Sound of Music” runs through March 18 at Central Valley High School. Contributed Photo.
“I think if I could do anything, I’d want to be the pianist for (the band) Journey,” laughs Ross. “I know all their songs, but they already have an awesome pianist.” Another big inspiration for him is the LDS pianist Jon Schmidt.
As for the near future, all three of these young men plan to stay involved in theater and music, no matter what other options they decide to pursue in the future. Carter was excited to learn that the school plans to stage “Singing in the Rain” next year, and would love the chance to play either of the two leads. Since Toth has been cast as the bad guy twice in a row, he is hoping to play a part closer to his natural lively personality. Ross is currently working on some music with his grandfather’s orchestra at Central Washington University.
There is no doubt that when these students go on stage each night, they will be sharing more than just “The Sound of Music.” They will also being sharing the sound of their talents and the sound of their beliefs.
For information on tickets and remaining showtimes for “The Sound of Music,” see the listing in this week’s Recreation Guide.