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The Hills Are Alive! VAF Announces Complete Cast for The Sound of Music

Sound of Music, Virginia Arts Festival, Virginia Opera

Words and Images Courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival

Virginia Arts Festival Announces Complete Cast for The Sound of Music May 13 - 15

The Virginia Arts Festival has announced the complete cast for The Sound of Music, co-produced by the Festival and the Virginia Opera May 13-15 at the Harrison Opera House. The cast is comprised of established Broadway artists and local rising stars. Part of the Virginia Arts Festival’s 25th Anniversary Season, the new production is led by Conductor Rob Fisher, the Festival’s Artistic Advisor of Musical Theater & American Songbook and Stage Director Matt Kunkel.

Maria Rainer - Mikaela Bennett Captain George von Trapp - Edward Watts Mother Abbess - Aundi Marie Moore Elsa Schraeder - Carlyn Connolly Max Detweiler - David Foley Jr. Liesl von Trapp - Kiara Lee Friedrich von Trapp - Stephen Culpepper Louisa von Trapp - Alitheia West Kurt von Trapp - Rhys West Brigitta von Trapp - Avelyn Bollen Marta von Trapp - Rainier Treviño Gretl von Trapp - Stormie Treviño Rolf Gruber - Conor Crowley

Mikaela Bennett (Maria Rainer) is a graduate of The Juilliard School and is celebrated as a singer and actress for her work on stage and in the concert hall. She most recently appeared as a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall conducted by Ted Sperling and performed alongside the Grammy Award winning group Take 6, and MasterVoices. She appeared as a featured soloist in Daniel Fish’s concert conception of “The Most Happy Fella” at Bard SummerScape. She made her Festival Napa Valley debut as Lauretta in “Gianni Schicchi” under the baton of Kent Nagano and in 2020, and appeared as featured soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel performing ‘Aurora’ written by Wayne Shorter. In 2019, Mikaela was honored by Lincoln Center with a ‘Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists’ and she made her critically acclaimed debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago playing ‘Maria’ in “West Side Story”. Following a sold-out run in Chicago, she returned to the BBC Proms with the John Wilson Orchestra performing music from the Warner Bros film studio. To cap off an eventful year, Mikaela sang the role of Mary Wintergreen in MasterVoices’ concert production of Gershwin’s “Let ‘Em Eat Cake” at Carnegie Hall, music directed and conducted by Ted Sperling. Mikaela has also appeared with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and New World Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, for the world premiere of his work ‘Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind’. Additionally, she has performed in New York City’s prestigious cabaret venues including Joe’s Pub at the Public and solo concerts at Feinstein’s 54 Below. Mikaela is a native of Ottawa, Canada.

Edward Watts (Captain George von Trapp) has performed on Broadway, National Tours, Regional Theatres and in concert with renowned symphonies and philharmonics all over the U.S. and in Europe. His New York credits include Scandalous, Finian's Rainbow, The Fantasticks, the recent world premiere of Black No More, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (City Center Encores!), Showboat (New York Philharmonic) and The Most Happy Fella (New York City Opera). His national touring credits include leading roles in The Book of Mormon, Les Miserables, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and The Little Mermaid. His regional theatre credits include The Music Man, 1776 and Thoroughly Modern Millie at Goodspeed Opera, Roman Holiday at The Guthrie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Shakespeare D.C. (Helen Hayes Award nomination), How the Grinch Stole Christmas at The Old Globe, A Little Night Music at the Michigan Opera Theater, Annie Get Your Gun and Guys and Dolls at Sacramento Music Theatre, and Camelot at Music Theatre of Wichita. Concert appearances include the Milwaukee Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Florida Sunshine Pops, the Dessau Symphony, the Austin Symphony, and the Alabama Symphony. In the Television world, Edward has had recurring roles on The Sopranos and All My Children and co-starring roles on NCIS - NOLA, Quantico and Rescue Me. He can also be seen in the upcoming Disney movie "Better Nate Than Ever".

Aundi Marie Moore (Mother Abbess) is a proud native of Chesapeake, Virginia and is quickly establishing herself as one of America's leading young sopranos. Former member of the Domingo-Cafritz Washington National Opera Young Artist Program, Maestro Placido Domingo handpicked her among hundreds of applicants. Celebrated for being the 2015 winner of The American Prize in Voice, Ms. Moore was recently hailed for possessing a voice of “clarion beauty” (The Washington Post) with “Tender effect…compelling” (Opera News), and noted for her “Bluesy Humming with a honeyed tone” (New York Times). She can be heard during the current season with the Buffalo Symphony, Virginia Symphony, and North Carolina Symphony. Career highlights on the opera stage include Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with L'Opéra de Monte Carlo for her international operatic debut, Nedda in Pagliacci with Sarasota Opera, Serena in Porgy and Bess with Atlanta Opera and Virginia Opera, Young African American Soprano in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's Rappahannock County with Virginia Opera, Soprano 2 in the US Premier of Facing Goya with Spoleto Festival USA and Odessa Clay in the World Premier of Approaching Ali with Washington National Opera. Additional credits include Lady Thiang in The King And I with Lyric Opera of Virginia, and Nettie Fowler in Carousel with Ashlawn Music Festival. Concert engagements are highlighted by her performance with the New World Symphony for Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 under the baton of Maestro Steven Jarvi as well as the National Symphony Orchestra as their featured guest soloist for their Christmas Pops concert with Marvin Hamlisch conducting.  This concert included the premiere of Hamlisch’s new original composition entitled “Chanuka Lights”. Carlyn Connolly (Elsa Schraeder) regional credits include Cabaret (Fräulein Kost), Honky Tonk Laundry (Lana Mae Hopkins), An American In Paris (Milo Davenport), White Christmas (Betty Haynes), Hello, Dolly! (Irene Malloy), and The Music Man (Ethel Toffelmeier, u/s Marian Paroo). Carlyn has performed as a soloist with orchestras in the US, Canada, and across Asia, and is the co-founder of Marquee Digital. David Foley Jr. (Max Detweiler) is an actor and singer living in New York City. He recently finished touring the country as 'Monsieur Reyer' in the North American tour of The Phantom of the Opera. Previously, David covered the title ogre in the 1st National touring company of Shrek The Musical. Other New York credits include Forbidden Broadway, NEWSical, and Evergreen with Prospect Theater Company. David was featured in the holiday films The Flight Before Christmas with Mayim Bialik and Broadcasting Christmas with Dean Cain. Some of his regional credits include Nathan Detroit in Guys & Dolls at STAGES St. Louis (Kevin Kline Award nomination, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical), Burrs in LaChiusa's The Wild Party with freeFall Theatre Company (Voted Tampa Bay's Best Play of the year, Best Play of the Decade), and Marlin in Finding Nemo the Musical at Walt Disney World. A frequent performer of new works, David has helped develop musicals with the BMI and ASCAP workshops, and with the Radio City Rockettes. David is proud to be a graduate of Boston University's School of Fine Arts, a member of Actors' Equity Association. Kiara Lee (Liesl von Trapp) is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but currently resides in Pittsburgh obtaining her BFA in Musical Theatre at Carnegie Mellon University. Her most recent credits include Lisa in “Mamma Mia” at Clear Space Theatre Company this past summer, and Missy Watkins in “A Christmas Carol” at the Pittsburgh Civic light opera this past Christmas. She would like to thank her friends, family, and god for supporting her. Stephen Culpepper (Friedrich von Trapp) is a seventh grader at Deep Creek Middle, has been studying theater and dance with the Hurrah Players for seven years. Performance highlights with the Hurrah Players include Tamatoa in Moana (2021), Sheldon in Junie B. Jones (2020), Jetsam in The Little Mermaid (2019), Michael Darling in Peter Pan (2018), and Nigel in Matilda the Musical with Virginia Stage Company (2019). Alitheia West (Louisa von Trapp) is a homeschooled 9th-grader. Her previous credits include Matilda the Musical with Virginia Stage Company, Jojo in Seussical Jr. with Rich Theatre, Olaf in Frozen Jr. with TADA School of Performing Arts, and a host in Superbook Show by Christian Broadcasting Network. Rhys West (Kurt von Trapp) debuted in “A Christmas Carol” (Boy Scrooge, Peter Cratchit, Turkey Boy) with the Virginia Stage Company. Recently, Rhys played a lead role in the children’s opera “Brundibar” (Pepicek) with the Virginia Children's Chorus and Christopher Newport University Opera. In the Fall, they will be attending the Governor’s School for The Arts in the musical theatre strand. Avelyn Bollen (Brigitta von Trapp) has previously been seen with the Virginia Stage Company in Matilda the Musical (Amanda), and with the Hurrah Players in Annie (Annie u/s, Orphan), Disney’s “Frozen, Jr.” (Ensemble), Disney’s “Moana, Jr.” (Ancestor), “Junie B Jones, The Musical” (Camille), and the title role in “Annie” at Old Donation School in Virginia Beach. In the fall, Avelyn will be attending the Governor’s School for The Arts in the musical theatre strand. Avelyn is an Actor’s Equity Membership Candidate. Rainier Treviño (Marta von Trapp) is a ten-year-old honor student at Southeastern Elementary in Chesapeake and has been singing, dancing, and acting since she was three. Her most recent role was The Little Mermaid (Flounder). She has voice and commercial acting credits and studies with The Hurrah Players, the Academy of Classical and Contemporary Dance, and voice with Dianna Swenson. Stormie Treviño (Gretl von Trapp) is a 6-year-old Kindergartener at Southeastern Elementary in Chesapeake. Stormie has grown up in the footsteps of her older sister Rainey, singing and dancing since she could speak. Stormie began formal training this past year with The Hurrah Players, The Academy of Classical and Contemporary Dance, and voice with Dianna Swenson. The Sound of Music will be her first professional acting credit. Conor Crowley (Rolf Gruber) credits include Forever Plaid (Sparky), Gutenberg! the musical (Doug), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Monty), Chicago (ensemble), Believe! the magic of music Japan Tour (featured singer) Mary Poppins (ensemble), Seussical the Musical (Thing 1) Conor also attended the Governors School for the Arts. Rob Fisher (Conductor) is an internationally recognized music director, conductor and pianist, and a leading figure in American music and musical theatre. He has been a guest of virtually every major orchestra in the country as conductor or pianist. Fisher is currently represented on Broadway as the score supervisor and arranger for An American in Paris (Grammy nomination). Additionally, he is represented as the music supervisor and arranger for Chicago: The Musical, which recently celebrated twenty years on Broadway. With the New York Philharmonic, he has conducted the acclaimed concert versions of Carousel (EMMY Nomination for Best Music Director), My Fair Lady, and Mr. Keillor at 70. Other recent highlights include debuts with the Boston and Chicago Symphonies and appearances with the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and National symphonies. At Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, he led gala performances of Guys and Dolls and The Sound of Music. In addition to collaborating in concert with such artists as Renée Fleming, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara, Victoria Clark, Idina Menzel, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and David Hyde Pierce, he has conducted Patti LuPone’s engagements with the Pacic, Phoenix, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and Chicago symphonies. He conducted the San Francisco Symphony in the Emmy-winning concert production of Sweeney Todd starring Patti LuPone and George Hearn. At the Chicago Lyric Opera, he led the record-breaking production of The Sound of Music. Fisher was founding music director and conductor of the New York City Center Encores! series from its inception in 1994 until 2005. The series earned a 2000 Tony Award, and in 1997, Fisher was given the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Special Achievement. Matt Kunkel (Director), named one of Newsday’s Rising Stars of Tomorrow, is a freelance NYC based director. He directed and co-conceived the St. Louis Muny’s critically acclaimed 100th anniversary gala production An Evening with the Stars, which starred Broadway Legends Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune, along with Heather Headley and Matthew Morrison. He recently directed Follow the Fellow Who Follows A Dream with Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92nd St Y, Sunset Boulevard and Elf the Musical at the John W. Engeman Theatre at Northport, and the first ever collaboration for The Muny and the St. Louis Symphony entitled A Celebration of Muny 100. As a director of new works, he directed the first reading of Dick Scanlan’s opera libretto Fallingwater for The Metropolitan Opera as well as Twist, an adaptation of Oliver Twist which he also Co-Conceived and Co-Adapted. As an Associate Director, he has worked on Candide at Carnegie Hall (starring John Lithgow), The Music Man (starring Norm Lewis, Jessie Mueller, and Rosie O’Donnell) Tommy, and Footloose at the Kennedy Center, Carmel Dean and Dick Scanlan’s new musical Renascence with the Transport Theatre Group, the Actors Fund Reunion Concert of Thoroughly Modern Millie (starring Sutton Foster), the Jerry Herman Memorial Concert, and the first ever regional production of the landmark musical Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (The Muny and Theatre Under the Stars). As an Assistant Director, he has worked on the National Tour of Elf the Musical, as well as the Madison Square Garden production of Elf the Musical. About The Production The Sound of Music features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and is suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp. Considered by many to be the world’s most beloved musical, The Sound of Music reminds us that with heartfelt compassion and unwavering determination, life’s mountains can always be climbed. With its Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning score, The Sound of Music became a Broadway legend when it opened in 1959, capturing five Tony Awards including Best Musical; the film version released in 1965 won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Set in 1938 and based on the story of the Trapp Family Singers, the musical is about a young Austrian postulant nun, Maria, who is sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. In the shadow of the Nazi invasion of their country, Maria brings love and music to the family. The score, which generations of fans can sing by heart, includes such memorable songs as "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "The Sound of Music," "Do-Re-Mi" and more.  The Broadway classic leaps to life this spring with a new full production that joins the creative forces of three of Virginia's most-respected performing arts powerhouses: the Virginia Opera, Virginia Arts Festival, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The new production will be directed by Matt Kunkel and conducted by Rob Fisher, Virginia Arts Festival’s recently appointed Goode Family Artistic Advisor of Musical Theater & American Songbook. The Sound of Music Co-produced by Virginia Arts Festival and Virginia Opera Harrison Opera House, Norfolk Friday, May 13, 8pm Saturday, May 14, 8pm Sunday, May 15, 2pm Tickets are available at, 757-282-2822, or in person at the Virginia Arts Festival Box Office, 440 Bank Street in Norfolk. About Virginia Opera Virginia Opera, the official opera company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, is one of the finest regional opera companies in the nation and is the only company to perform regularly in three separate main stage venues: the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, the Carpenter Theatre at the Dominion Energy Center in Richmond, and Center for the Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax. Organized in 1974, Virginia Opera is respected nationwide for the identification and presentation of the finest young artists, for the musical and dramatic integrity of its productions, and for the ingenuity and variety of its education and outreach programs. About Virginia Arts Festival The Virginia Arts Festival celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2022. The largest and most prestigious performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia, Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the region's cultural scene, presenting great performers from around the world and making this historic region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world. Over the past 25 years, the Festival has welcomed visitors from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 25 foreign countries. The Festival has presented over 1,438 performances, free community events, and student matinees and workshops with a reach of over 1.2 million attendees. Over 32% of ticket sales come from outside the region, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to local museums and attractions and filling regional hotels and restaurants. The estimated annual economic impact of the Festival exceeds $25 million.

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