'Sound of Music' actress says Maria character a complicated one
How do you solve a problem like creating a character for Maria?
If you're Lara Hayhurst, you just follow the lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II penned for “The Sound of Music.”
Maria is a complex character with often-conflicting personality traits, explains Hayhurst, who will play her in the Pittsburgh Musical Theater production of the musical that will play Thursday through Feb. 3 at the Byham Theater, Downtown.
Set in Austria as the storm clouds of World War II are gathering, Maria, who aspires to be a nun, is sent by her abbess to become governess to the seven Von Trapp children and ends up falling in love with them and their widower father.
“Like the song says: ‘She's a flibberti gibbet, a will-o' the wisp, a clown.' She is all these things,” Hayhurst says. “But she also has an inner conflict between her deep, abiding faith and what she thought her life would be and then she falls in love with this man.”
Hayhurst plans to create her own Maria.
“She's a lovely woman who can be awkward. ... But she stands up for what she believes,” Hayhurst says. “She doesn't know what the social norms are. She feels a kinship with the children and wants to make them more lovable. She hasn't really dealt with men, so the Captain is almost a strange being. It's only when the children tell her that (she realizes) she's in love with him.
Hayhurst, a graduate of North Allegheny High School and former Bradford Woods resident, is making her third appearance in three years with Pittsburgh Musical Theater. She played Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” for the company in 2012 and Amber Van Tussle in “Hairspray” in 2011.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein score contains an abundance of familiar tunes that include its title song, “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” and “How Can Love Survive.”
But Hayhurst's favorite part of the show is when she's singing “I Have Confidence.”
“It's kind of an actor's dream song. It shows Maria's transition from terrified to confident.”
She enjoys the annual break from living in New York City, and not just because it allows her to spend time with her family.
“I enjoy working with Colleen (Petrucci, Pittsburgh Musical Theater's general manager) and Ken (Gargaro, the founding director),” she says. “And I get to work with amazing veteran actors like Jeff Howell (who plays Capt. Von Trapp).”
She also is impressed by the 14 kids who alternate performances as the seven Von Trapp siblings. “Sometimes, I feel like I'm being out-acted,” she says.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.