Pictured (L to R) are Tatum Langley and Cassidy Hamilton. Photos provided.
Pictured (L to R) are Tatum Langley and Cassidy Hamilton. Photos provided.
The first time Tatum Langley was introduced to the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music” was by her grandmother at her grandmother’s house.

“She had it on a good, ol’ VHS tape and she would always be playing it and she would sing along with us. ‘My Favorite Things’ was our favorite to sing together, so much so that I printed a lyric sheet and I carried it around with me at recess in elementary school, and I would practice it at recess on the playground,” she recalled in an interview Tuesday, Nov. 22 at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts.

Now, for the Wagon Wheel holiday show of “The Sound of Music,” Langley is playing Liesl.

“It always reminds me of my grandma,”?she said.

The story, based on the memoir of Maria Augusta Trapp, follows an ebullient postulate who serves as governess to the seven children of the imperious Captain von Trapp, bringing music and joy to the household, according to a synopsis of the show on the Wagon Wheel website. But as the forces of Nazism take hold of Austria, Maria and the entire von Trapp family must make a moral decision.

Cassidy Hamilton, who is taking on the role of Maria this December, was in fifth grade when she was first introduced to “The Sound of Music.” The song “Do Re Mi” was her first solo in choir.

“And then, ‘Sound of Music’ was my first professional show at 16. I was the Liesl understudy at a theater in Baltimore. So, it was my first-ever solo, my first professional show and now I’m really excited to come back and do it again,” Hamilton said. “My parents are coming, grandma. It’s a very full circle moment for me. A special show.”

She said “The Sound of Music” is one of those shows that introduces a lot of people to musical theater.

“That movie is often - whether you come from a family where you grew up going to see the theater a lot or not - odds are you know ‘The Sound of Music.’ So I think that it’s special in that way. And I think that everyone can see themselves in it, in some way or another, at any age,” Hamilton said.

Langley said it’s one of those shows that no matter who you are, you could probably sing at least two of the songs from the show. She pointed out that the musical was the last show Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote together before Hammerstein died.

“And I just think that the music is so recognizable that you can’t help but sing along and just love it, especially with the movie and Julie Andrews because everyone loves Julie Andrews,” she said.

Hamilton said the show is nostalgic, probably for everyone.

Tuesday was the fourth day of rehearsal for the show and Hamilton said she was just crying in rehearsals before the interview. Kira Lace Hawkins is playing Mother Abbess and Hamilton and Hawkins had just finished blocking the “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” scene.

“We were both just in tears,” Hamilton said. “And I’ve known Kira for a long time, so it was very special to get to do that with her.”

Langley was excited to do the “16 Going on 17” scene, which they hadn’t got to yet as of the Tuesday interview.

“Just because it’s such a classic scene from the movie, and it’s just so sweet and I can’t wait to work on it. But, ‘Edelweiss’ always gets me. I think it’s such a beautiful melody, and such a tender moment in the show, and it comes back up a few times. And that specific song, actually, was the last song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together,” Langley said, stating that she’s really big on musical theater history. “But, I just think if you listen to the lyrics of that song, while thinking about that, it just puts a whole other layer of it being emotional.”

There are a number of reasons why “The Sound of Music” makes for a great holiday show for the entire family, the two actresses said.

“It’s totally family oriented. Such a big theme throughout the show is family and loyalty to those that are closest to you and care about you. And, at least I think, that those themes come about during the holiday season because it’s a time to reconnect with your family and friends. A lot of times people come back altogether if your family is far apart,” Langley said.

It’s also a show that people bond over and everyone has a connection to, she said. “It’s just a nice, full family experience.”

Hamilton said she noticed in the past approximate 10 years that the song “My Favorite Things” has become a Christmas song that’s included in Christmas albums.

“I never thought about it as a Christmas song, but, I swear, in the past 10 years it’s become a Christmas staple. It’s on - I don’t know if it’s on Michael Bublé’s Christmas album - but it’s on so many of the Christmas albums that are played on the radio this time of year, etc., so I think that is a close tie (between the holiday and the musical), and it’s very nostalgic. It’s a feel-good, family movie and a feel-good, family musical and every age loves it,” Hamilton said.

Besides the theme of family, Hamilton said “The Sound of Music” also has other important messages.

“We have a lot of schools coming to see the show, and I think it’s important to learn a little bit about your history,” she said, referring to the rise of Nazism in Austria before World War II.

Langley noted that as of the Tuesday interview they hadn’t worked on a lot of those scenes yet. “But I know that when we do, it definitely will hit deep just because it’s such a sensitive topic, but it’s so important to learn about that, and also learn about it maybe in a setting that’s different than just sitting in history class and reading it out of a textbook. Seeing it on stage and seeing it integrated onto a musical story makes it a little more understandable and real,” she said.

When Liesl’s boyfriend becomes a Nazi, Hamilton said it represents the impact of Nazi youth during WWII.

Speaking on her role as Maria, Hamilton said, “I think Maria is such a well-written character. I think she’s a really powerful female character, so I love that about her. She’s highly connected to nature, and I think she’s a woman who is trying to find her place in the world: exploring her relationship with the higher power, exploring her relationship with others. Finding a new family, really. Her family are the nuns at the abby, and then she has this found family of the von Trapps.”

Both Maria and Liesl go on a personal journey in the show, she said.

Langley said Liesl “is a young girl on the cusp on womanhood. And I think she’s desperate to journey into being a grownup, but I think she struggles with that in the fact that she doesn’t really have a mother figure until Maria comes around. So, I think she’s a bit hardened at the beginning simply because I think she doesn’t really know how to deal with not having a mother figure and desperately needing that. I think once Maria comes around, she realizes that she’s been missing that and Maria fills that hole, and I think that’s really when they start to bond.”

Audiences will get to see Liesl grow up and mature throughout the musical, Langley said.

Dates and times for “The Sound of Music” at the Wagon Wheel are 7 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18.

Tickets may be purchased through the box office or online at https://www.wagonwheelcenter.org/events/soundofmusic/ and are $40 for adults; $36 for seniors 60 and older; $20 for students ages 13 through college; $15 for children 12 and under; and $30 for groups of 15 or more.