For some musicals, the skill set goes beyond singing, dancing and acting.

In "The Sound of Music," for instance, Maria has to belt a song while also working with a cast of child actors.

Take Taylor Caprara, who snagged that role in the upcoming production from Missoula Community Theatre.

Caprara, who had parts in MCT's "Shrek" and "Les Miserables," gave an "exuberant" audition, said director Michael McGill, but she had that other key quality.

"She had an instantaneous rapport with the children who were auditioning," he said.

"That's really important, and it's been a great benefit," he said. "It's not just about how wonderful you sing or how great your acting is. There are other elements."

McGill estimated that some 135 people – including kids and adults – sought roles. So many capable children auditioned that McGill opted to cast two separate sets of Von Trapp kids, the well-to-do kids who Maria is enlisted to help care for in an Austrian household on the brink of World War II.

Caprara, a Missoula native and senior in vocal performance at the University of Montana, said working with the kids has been a challenge and a pleasure.

"They're so professional and on their game. They blow me away," she said.

As the stern patriarch Capt. Von Trapp, Andrew Rossiter had the height and the right dynamics for the part.

"He portrays a very kind and strong father figure," McGill said, "that's very important to come across."

"It's come together in ways where it's not just about the lines," he said, and was pleased with the chemistry and cohesion.

Rossiter has worked as a touring actor-director with Missoula Children's Theatre, and was even featured in the "Little Red Truck" documentary.

He said the skills he learned staging plays with a cast of kids have come in handy.

For one, he said, children don't understand sarcasm. Be literal, he suggested, and let them know you're joking.

"Otherwise, you're going to be wiping tears off," he said. (Not a good way to get a callback from MCT.)

Rossiter auditioned because it's a classic musical, and he believes it's Rodgers and Hammerstein's best work.

"It's a challenge," he said. "It's not one of those full-on musicals where everyone is singing all the time."

For instance, he has to let the captain grow as a person over the course of the play.

Initially, Von Trapp is distanced from his family.

"He loses his wife and goes into this realm of being a captain," he said. "His children are almost like soldiers he's training for the military."

It's not until he's being confronted by someone in a station below him that he re-evaluates himself.

"He's being challenged and has to look at himself in the mirror and really make a change for the betterment of his children," he said.

***

McGill works double-duty as director and music director for the extended three-week run.

"You have to have the show finished up as a director before you go down into the pit," he said.

But, he joked, working both jobs can result in fewer creative differences.

"It does make it so the director and the music director are in total agreement," he said.

This is the fourth time McGill, who serves as executive director of MCT Inc. as a whole, has taken the helm as music director or director for an MCT production of "The Sound of Music."

"I keep coming back to it because it really is an incredibly well-written show. Its themes and its issues that it brings up are well-defined," he said.

There's the natural conversations stirred during the rehearsal process, as well.

"The dialogue may have deeper meanings that maybe you should investigate and talk about," he said.

The MCT set design has also stayed true to the play and its 1960s style. They have an "impressive, sweeping staircase" for the Von Trapps' living room, and 14-foot windows looking out on the terrace.

And, of course, there's the music: timeless songs like "Edelweiss" and "My Favorite Things" to name only two of the standards.

Often, McGill said you only need to hear a bar for the music to have an effect.

"Sometimes, it just takes that much to feel a little lighter of heart sometimes," he said.

To Caprara, a few of the highlights include "Something Good," one of the few solo pieces for Maria.

"It works really well as a jazz standard," she said. "It can be done so many different ways. It's beautiful and simple."

And then there's "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," which she said is "a beast for any singer."

She said Maria Jooste, a Juilliard-trained opera singer, raises the tune to tearjerker heights.

"She's an incredible vocalist," she said. "To see that song done so beautifully and so well brought us to tears."

McGill said this is the first time he's worked with Jooste, who plays the Mother Abbess.

"I think that she brings an incredible performance," he said.

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