Redwood seniors sing ‘So Long, Farewell’ to Throckmorton in ‘The Sound of Music’

Over the past three weekends of May, the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley performed “The Sound of Music,” marking several seniors’ final musical theater productions with the company. The combination of nostalgic songs and mature content gave these Redwood students the opportunity to perform one of their favorite childhood musicals along with an advanced historical and dramaturgical education.  

Singing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” Mother Abbess, played by Desiree Goyette, acts as a spiritual compass to Maria Rainer, played by Katrina Lauren McGraw. (Photo by Sophie Smallhorn)

For senior Catherine Hackett, who played a nun in the ensemble, “The Sound of Music” was the last of her eight productions she’s done with Throckmorton. Unlike Hackett’s past performances, “The Sound of Music” had a cast ranging from seven to 70 years old, teaching Hackett the value of working with both older and younger cast members.

“I haven’t been [a part of] a ton of shows with all ages … It was hard, at first, to relate to some of my cast mates [because] they were so much older or so much younger. But now that we’ve been working [together] for so long, I feel like we are just one big family,” Hackett said. 

Along with Hackett, senior Maisie McPeek, cast as Liesl von Trapp, found that working with adult actors heightened  the level of professionalism throughout the process and broadened her horizons as a performer. Bringing this professional mentality she gained from this show, McPeek will study musical theater at the University of California Los Angeles next fall.

“I learned how to make bigger choices because I am surrounded by adults who are making huge choices. All of the adults in this show just go for it. In kids theater, they’ll tell you where to go and what to do with your hands,” McPeek said. “Once you get to an older level, they’ll stop giving you those directions … I’ve learned how to just look at [the script] and decide.” 

But the seniors gained more than just acting skills. According to Hackett, performing in “The Sound of Music” provided her with a greater understanding of

the darker parts of world history. Set in Austria just before World War II, the play includes antisemitic symbolism such as “heiling” Hitler and swastikas.

In the final bows, senior Maisie McPeek, cast as Liesl von Trapp, praises senior Noah Ong Bamola, cast as Rolf Gruber. (Photo by Sophie Smallhorn)

After cast-wide conversations about the controversies in these scenes, director Adam Maggio focused on depicting an accurate portrayal of the events during this time period. In his first in-person production with Throckmorton, Maggio was thoroughly impressed with the level of maturity throughout the cast. 

“It’s been really informative for us — myself and some of the older actors — to have conversations about the parallels between what’s going on in the story and what’s happening in the world [today],” Maggio said. 

McPeek also realized that glossing over the severity of the Holocaust would be counterproductive to sharing the signifigance of the story. 

“There’s a lot of antisemitism that we took out, but there are some things that are really important to the character development in the show… In the same way that pretending you’re colorblind [towards race] is offensive, if you just [perform] “The Sound of Music” without [showing] antisemitism, it can isolate people by not including [their history],” McPeek said.

Prior to the show and in the program, Throckmorton added a disclaimer and trigger warning to those who may feel uncomfortable with the content of the play. Hackett reflected on how Throckmorton has previously dealt with sensitive subject matters and believes awareness is crucial for the audience. 

Senior Catherine Hackett wears an authentic Austrian vintage gown during the party scene. (Photo by Sophie Smallhorn)

“We don’t make light of [antisemitism] because I think it’s important to not sugarcoat anything that happened … The story of “The Sound of Music” doesn’t condone any [antisemitism], and I think that’s important too,” Hackett said. 

While remaining true to the original script, Maggio included many unique twists utilizing humor and casting. Maggio collaborated heavily with Katrina McGraw, starring as Maria Reiner, who he went to high school with. 

“I’ve known [McGraw] since I was in seventh grade. She’s a dear friend of mine and has always been obsessed with the movie. She grew up watching [“The Sound of Music”] all the time and knew all the words, but isn’t the traditional type for Maria, so [she] never assumed that [she] would play Maria,” Maggio said. 

Rehearsing alongside McGraw for the past two months, McPeek has gained profound respect for her co-star.  

“When people show up to “The Sound of Music,” they’re expecting to see a Julie Andrews-type, petite, white, super feminine woman on stage. Our Maria is Black, and she’s not your little Julie Andrews,” McPeek said. “She’s a little gritty, and she’s such a phenomenal actor and so perfect for the role. She doesn’t play it the same way as everyone else because she has a different perspective, but I think it adds a lot of layers to the show.”

Heading up the stairs, the children of Captain von Trapp sing “So Long, Farewell.” (Photo by Sophie Smallhorn)

According to Maggio, McGraw and many other actors have “director brains,” allowing them to bounce ideas off each other. This chemistry brought the cast, and especially the seniors, closer together. For anyone who went to see it, Maggio expected the audience to feel mixed emotions — shame and sadness, but also optimism from experiencing new perspectives. He hopes that casting McGraw as Maria has a lasting impact on the audience and seniors as they begin a new chapter in their theatrical careers.  

“I think people are going to [leave the theater] questioning their assumptions about roles and casting. People are going to leave being like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t assume that a certain part should just be played by a certain person always,’” Maggio said.