Playing the role of Maria in “The Sound of Music” during her junior year of high school changed Ali Lundin’s perspective about theater.
It’s part of the reason she wanted to reprise the role this summer in Litchfield Community Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music,” which takes the stage this week at Bernie Aaker Auditorium.
“It really changed my view on theater,” Lundin recalled of being cast as Maria in the Litchfield High School production. “I worked with Jim Vrchota, and he just really, like, sold into my theater talents and really encouraged me. And ever since I did that, it’s actually the show that I keep (thinking) what’s going to be better than that show? It’s my favorite.”
That says a lot, considering Lundin’s theatrical resume, which includes about 30 shows between high school, Litchfield Community Youth Theatre and Litchfield Community Theatre. “The Sound of Music” is her “ninth or 10th” with LCT, she said.
But the show will also mark a first for Lundin — the first time she’s ever played a role a second time.
Considering what being “Maria” meant to her theater career, she said, she can’t think of a better role to try a second time. While she wanted the role, however, she says she would happily have taken just about any role for “The Sound of Music.”
“I just love the message behind the show,” she said. “And yeah, I love how it’s family friendly. You know, the songs that everybody can enjoy, listen to. I grew up listening to these songs and watching the film.”
Based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, “The Sound of Music,” is set in Austria in 1938. It tells the story of Maria, who takes a job as governess to the large von Trapp family. She eventually falls in love with the children’s father, Captain von Trapp. The family flees Austria and Nazi rule. The musical includes Rodgers and Hammerstein classics “Edelweiss,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and the title song “The Sound of Music.”
Being in “The Sound of Music” is actually a happy coincidence of the COVID-19 pandemic for Lundin. Originally planned as Litchfield Community Theatre’s 2020 show, the production was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Lundin was a new mom last year, following the birth of her daughter, Anastasia, in March 2020.
“If it had been last year, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, because she was only two months (when rehearsals would have started), it would have been way too hard,” Lundin said. “COVID totally changed everything. So, it’s really worked out well.”
She also feels fortunate, she said, to be able to work with director Tim Nelson. Lundin had her first taste of that in 2019 when she appeared in the musical “Litchfield Is Our Home” that Nelson wrote and directed in celebration of the town’s sesquicentennial.
“I had a blast working with him,” she said. “So when I heard he was directing my favorite show ever, I was like, I have to do it.”
Adam Stern, who plays Captain von Trapp, was similarly enthusiastic about working with Nelson — and also coincidentally available to be in this year’s show. The Litchfield native and LHS graduate lives in Los Angeles, where he works in the entertainment industry, but he is home for the summer.
He was visiting his parents earlier this year when he heard LCT would be staging “The Sound of Music” and that Nelson would be directing. It was a combination he wanted to be part of.
“I knew that I’d probably be here for the summer and that I would probably audition,” Stern said. “And then I found out that Tim Nelson was directing it. And that really pushed me to definitely audition.”
Stern’s theatrical experience is lengthy, as well, including more than 50 shows between youth, high school, community and college productions.
“Back in the day, I was Peter Pan with Val Chellin, I was in Nelson Farm plays, any shows, or any theater that was offered, I totally was involved in,” Stern said.
His Litchfield Community Theatre resume includes nine musicals prior to “The Sound of Music.” The list includes two of the best-attended shows in LCT history — “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Grease.” For “Grease,” Stern held the headlining role of Danny.
Memories of those shows led Stern to put on his public relations hat to promote “The Sound of Music,” which he says people will regret not seeing because of the talented cast and production crew.
“This show and the way everything’s going, it has a Bernie Aaker feel to it, if that makes any sense,” Stern said, recalling one of the founders of Litchfield Community Theatre, for whom the auditorium is named. “Nobody knows what it was like … he left such a legacy. The heart and the passion feels that way for this show.”