Jacob Geier, a Mepham High School sophomore, said he is happy to play Friedrich von Trapp in the Skull and Bones drama club’s spring production of “The Sound of Music.” Being a member of the famous family is the first lead role he has played in at Mepham. It’s also his first experience having siblings of sorts, as the only child was one of four high-schoolers who were cast with three North Bellmore Elementary School District students as the von Trapp children.
“I appreciate having a family,” he said of working with the children. “To have the kids here makes it a lot more exciting.”
This year, Mepham formed a partnership with the North Bellmore District’s music department to bring youngsters to the Mepham stage. Edward Grosskreuz, a Mepham English teacher and the Skull and Bones adviser, said this is the first time that he has worked with younger children on a production at the high school in the six years that he has overseen the club. Because most of the works he had previously chosen were modern, Grosskreuz said he decided to direct “The Sound of Music” this year because it’s more of a classic.
The play, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, tells the story of Maria von Trapp, a former nun who leaves the convent to become a governess for the seven children of a wealthy Austrian widower. Since children are integral characters in the work, Grosskreuz immediately thought of bringing in students from the surrounding elementary schools to play them.
Grosskreuz worked with Emily D’Andrilli, who teaches music at the John G. Dinkelmeyer and Martin Avenue elementary schools, to reach out to North Bellmore faculty. North Bellmore Superintendent Marie Testa said 13 students auditioned for the roles of Kurt, Marta and Gretl von Trapp.
Molly Walsh, a Martin Avenue fourth-grader, will play Gretl von Trapp. Fifth-graders Jack McDonagh and Halle Wunderman, who attend Saw Mill Road and Park Avenue elementary schools, respectively, were cast as Kurt and Marta. The other von Trapps – Friedrich, Liesl, Louisa and Brigitta – will be played by Geier, Sabrina Garone, Sara Miller and Jess Serviss, who are all Mepham students.
Walsh, who auditioned in front of high-schoolers because she missed the session for elementary school students, said she was nervous to try out for the production. But she said her experiences at Martin Avenue and her passion for music gave her to confidence to audition.
“I used to have really bad stage fright, but then I was in the talent show at my school, and it made me more confident,” she said. “And I really love singing. I used to sing with my friends on the playground all of the time.”
Now Walsh is tackling what Miller described as the challenging harmonies in “The Sound of Music” songbook.