Amidst their busy schedules in working with the Sri Lankan children chosen for the production of ‘The Sound of Music’ to be performed mid-next month, we were able to have a brief chat with the Children’s Director, Jonny Bowles and the Assistant Music Director, Joseph Tolentino on the auditioning process and especially working with the Sri Lankan children who were chosen for the play.
Jonny and Joseph have been a part of the auditioning process right from the start when 400 children applied for the roles of the Von Trapp siblings, minus Leizl who is already portrayed by one of their own cast.
As customary for the production, the first round of auditioning includes teaching the children few line of the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from Wizard of Oz, and seeing how they perform. While in the second round onwards they gloss over the songs from The Sound of Music itself with the children and then shortlist till they agree on the final list of children to be in the play.
The duo was helped with auditioning by some of our industry’s leading figures such as Soundarie David, Umesh Rajendran and Natasha Senanayake among others. The children were auditioned based on varied parameters such as the ability to sing, perform the required choreography and the ability to pick up their required parts as soon as possible.
This is vital since there are only three weeks for the children to learn the entire performance and one of the key factors that Jonny and Joseph looked for is their ability to focus and handle what is being taught to them.
“They come to work with us four hours every day, after spending their day at school, so they are tired anyways, but we looked at kids who can be attentive nevertheless and have the energy to pursue,”
Jonny said on a serious note.
Hence after several callbacks, the team of judges were able to choose 12 children, with two kids assigned per role, of the six remaining Von Trapp children so that they can perform on consecutive days. The children have been rehearsing for roughly two weeks, but their sociable attitude and friendly behavior shows why they are most suited to play the much-loved siblings in the play.
“The production maintains a standard with what we expect from the children we audition. It doesn’t vary from country to country…. we choose the children and work with them to meet the standard that is requiredfrom the original production itself,”
Before coming to the auditions, the children are briefed on what is expected from them and then looked at how good they are in meeting that.
“The play is quite different to the movie, so knowing the songs would not mean that they are more ready to perform, because most of the choreography and the arrangement is unique to this production,”
“Maintaining the harmony is something we look at with all the kids. Being able to sing alone is not sufficient. They should also have a good ear, so that they don’t confuse their part with someone else’s and will be able to handle their part on their own,”
Joseph, who is working with the kids on the music, emphasized thoroughly.
They also said that it’s good that the children they have chosen from Sri Lanka do not have much stage experience as it’s easier to work with them.
“Sometimes when they have previous experience, children tend to do things thinking this is what is expected of them, so it’s really good that we have chance to work fresh with the kids we have chosen here,”
said Jonny optimistically.
Overall Jonny and Joseph claim that the progress with the children has been going well and that they do look promising from the performances they have seen of the children so far!
By Melanie Senanayake
Photos by Damith Wickremasinghe