For the past six weeks, Freddie Fawcett, 11, from Chinese International School and Jorja Townson, 12, from Island School, have been rehearsing for The Sound of Music, which opens on Friday and runs until June 21 at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. This performance will incorporate the cast from the West End production playing the adults and the older children, and local talent playing the younger children.
"I've never worked this hard; I wasn't expecting this much," said Freddie. "But when I heard that it was sold out, it scared [me] and makes [me] want to keep doing better." He added that associate choreographer and resident director Jonny Bowles "keeps reminding us to concentrate because thousands of people out there have high expectations since it's a world tour from the West End, and we don't want to disappoint them."
The Sound of Music is one of the most popular musicals in the world, with five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The film adaptation in 1965 won five Oscars, including Best Picture. It's inspired by The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, a memoir by the real life Maria von Trapp. The story focuses on Maria, a fun-loving governess, who changes the lives of a strict, widowed Austrian naval officer, Captain von Trapp, and his seven, overly-disciplined children.
Freddie is playing the second eldest von Trapp child, Friedrich, and he feels he is becoming like his character. "In the beginning, he's a 'tough guy' and gets really mad, but he grows throughout the scenes and is happy in the end," said Freddie. "I'm growing into a Friedrich; I remember everyone telling me I shouldn't do musical theatre because that'd just be weird. They used to call me a girl, and I said I don't care. I grew into musical theatre and I enjoy it so much now."
Jorja, like Freddie and the others, said she's been working hard. "I've never worked this hard, and it adds more pressure knowing that tickets have been sold out," she said. "But it makes you want to work harder; it makes you excited."
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Jorja will play Brigitta, the third youngest of the von Trapp children. "I was actually auditioning for Marta, but when I came to measure before the actual auditions, I found that I was too tall for her, but I was perfect for Brigitta," said Jorja. "When I found out I was in as Brigitta and was given my script, I realised I'm basically a Brigita!" she said. "She is (very much) like me - very curious."
Rehearsing for the musical is a top priority for the students - Jorja's even set aside football in case she gets injured - because they feel they have to make the most of the opportunity they beat so many other students to.
"When I came for the auditions, I was so scared because I saw more than 600 people. I didn't know I was going to get the part," said Freddie.
Jorja, too, didn't know she would get the part because she was competing with so many people.
"I saw how many people there were, and my face just completely dropped," said Jorja.
Freddie, Jorja, and 18 others deservedly beat hundreds of students for the six roles; and Bowles, who oversaw the casting, was impressed with the students' concentration, especially for their young age.
"More than 600 registered," he said. "You can tell the ones that concentrate and listen properly. After more than 25 hours of auditions, we picked the right ones."
Though the students are spending their weekends rehearsing, they hardly feel like it's a sacrifice because they're enjoying the rehearsals so much.
"I love the energy of the musical - the way that different songs are sung and written, like The Lonely Goatherd. It's unique because there's yodeling; we have so much fun doing it," said Freddie. "And when the whole company finally arrives, and we see the whole orchestra, and thousands of people staring right at you, and it's live, it's like 'oh my gosh', you're in the spotlight and it's going to be amazing!"
"There's nothing to not like about it. It's an amazing experience that you cannot give up, and you have to push everything aside to (be involved in) this one amazing experience of a show," said Jorja. "The whole thing is exciting, but the most exciting thing is going to be the first show because it's all leading up to it."