For Katie Collins, playing Maria von Trapp is a balancing act.
She is “a flibbertijibbet. A will-o’-the wisp. A clown.” She is also a doting mother and woman of deep faith. She’s an unforgettable character from a movie and a real person with a life more complex than a script.
“The real struggle for me is doing it differently,” Collins says as she contemplates adding just the right amount of Julie Andrews to her Maria von Trapp for Theatre in The Country’s production of The Sound of Music.
The musical features 26 performers, six-part harmonies, video projections of the snow-peaked Alps and some truly amazing voices.
With her pixie haircut, Collins already bears an uncanny resemblance to Andrews. She quips she’s also a music teacher and has worked as a nanny in the past.
“I wanted to play Maria and not play Julie Andrews,” says Collins, who read an autobiography about the matriarch of the von Trapp family to prepare.
“I wanted to bring in a little more of her character and the real story that shaped the character.”
A classically trained singer from Vancouver, Maria is a role Collins has coveted for years. She even auditioned for a Seattle-based production a few years ago.
Born in 1905, the real Maria was an orphan by her seventh birthday. She entered the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg in Salzburg as a novice but took a position as teacher with the von Trapp family when her health suffered.
She was supposed to remain with the von Trapps for 10 months, at the end of which she would formally enter the convent. During this time however, Georg von Trapp fell in love with Maria and asked her to become a second mother to his ten children.
When the family lost most of their wealth during the 1930s, Maria turned their hobby of singing into a profession.
The von Trapps fled when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, ended up performing around the U.S. and eventually settled in Vermont.
Their story eventually inspired the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music, and subsequent 1965 hit film.
“Rogers and Hammerstein embellished the story a bit to make it more romantic,” says Collins, who has still kept Julie Andrews’ spunk and feistiness in her character.
What Collins learned from the autobiography was the real Maria wanted to be faithful to God.
“She never imagined falling in love and getting married,” Collins explains.
“It’s really a revelation for her when Mother Abbess suggests that she can fall in love and get married and love God completely. That tension is probably the most interesting for me in her character.”
In Act Two of The Sound of Music, Collins says you can see Maria grow up.
“She takes her spunk and tomboyishness and helps the captain lead his family to safety. And maybe that’s what she was called to do all along. Maybe that’s what God was leading her towards.”
The Sound of Music plays at Theatre in the Country, Saturday, June 28, Sunday, June 29 and Friday, July 4. For showtimes and dinner theatre prices, visit theatreinthecountry.com or call 604-259-9737.