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'Sound of Music' just the start of some acting journeys

| Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seven weeks after winning this year's Gene Kelly Award for best actress and three weeks after becoming one of three finalists for the National High School Musical Theater best actress award, Kirsten Hoover is making her professional debut in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's "The Sound of Music."

Hoover, 17, a Ross resident and 2011 graduate of North Hills High School, will play Liesl, the oldest von Trapp daughter in the production that opens Tuesday at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

"I'm so excited," Hoover says. "Performing is my dream. ... I have a passion for it. It can't live without it. Every time I get up on stage, I feel so powerful and so happy."

Hoover is one of seven Pittsburgh CLO Academy students who will appear as the von Trapp children.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that debuted on Broadway in 1959 is based on the real-life story of Maria, a young, aspiring postulant who leaves the convent to become governess to the von Trapp children and captures the heart of their stern and lonely father.

Robert Cuccioli returns to the role of Captain von Trapp, which he played in the 2005 Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production. Playing opposite him as Maria is Jennifer Hope Wills who last appeared with the company as Julie Jordan in the 2005 production of "Carousel."

Also cast are Christine Brown as Louisa, James Paul Coletta as Friedric, Victoria Huston as Marta, Hannah Kwiecinski as Brigitta and Joseph Serafini as Kurt.

"It's fun to finally see what real acting is like," says Madeline Dick, 7, of O'Hara, who is making her Pittsburgh CLO debut as Gretl, the youngest of the von Trapp children.

"I have done acting before but not 'play' acting," Madeline says. "I've been in commercials on the radio but not with a bunch of people watching you."

Madeline is particularly excited to be appearing in "The Sound of Music." It's a show she learned to love while watching film versions of musicals with her grandmother.

"I wanted to see what it was like to be in a musical," she says. "I wanted to play any of the girls."

For Joseph Serafini, his role as Kurt von Trapp is the latest in a succession of CLO roles.

From 2005 to 2008, he appeared as Tiny Tim in the company's annual production of "A Christmas Carol." In 2009, after outgrowing that role, he became the Turkey Boy for the 2009 production. Additional CLO roles include the title role in last season's "Oliver," Gavroche in "Les Miserables" in 2009 and Michael Darling in "Peter Pan" in 2008.

"I learned how to fly. I learned how to die. And I learned how to play guitar," says Joseph,13, who lives in Bethel Park and is an incoming eighth-grader at Independence Middle School. The guitar lessons were for his role in "The Sound of Music."

"You get something new out of every show," he says.

Additional Information:

'The Sound of Music'

Produced by: Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera

When: Tuesday through July 31 at 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $21-$70.75; alf-price for ages 3-14 in Sections E & F

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pittsburghCLO.org

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