The kids in The Sound of Music

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When The Sound of Music production opens on March 31 at Johannesburg’s Teatro at Montecasino, there will be five Jewish youngsters playing the Von Trapp children.
by PETER FELDMAN | Mar 29, 2018

Four of the girls – Kelli Hollander, Mikayla Levick, Mikah Jaye Smith and Demi Cohen – featured on stage in Annie, while Demi’s younger sister, Ruby, makes her stage debut at six years old.

Thirteen-year-old Kelli Hollander, a Grade 8 scholar at King David Linksfield, plays Louisa, the third oldest Von Trapp child and the prankster of the group.

She told SA Jewish Report that her audition was a long, two-day process with many rounds and cuts during both days. “We had to sing, dance and act,” she said. “It was nerve wracking and much harder than the audition process for Annie, mainly because of the difficult harmonies that we had to learn.”

Since performing in Annie two years ago, Kelli has featured in a dance production at the Wits Theatre and also played Simba in her school’s production of The Lion King.

Kelli said her school was very supportive of her theatrical work and allowed her to leave school early every day in order to attend rehearsals at Montecasino.

She loves the musical because it “has a bit of everything in it... singing, dancing, humour and, of course, the best part is that it has kids in it”.

She was excited to get into The Sound of Music, particularly because three of the friends she made in Annie are also in the cast. “I was so excited to work with them again. The friendships you make during these productions are special.

“I really am living every child’s dream and I don’t take it for granted for one second.”

Mikayla Levick, already a stage veteran at the age of 15, alternates the role of Louisa. She also found the audition process stressful as 250 children turned up. This Grade 10 King David Linksfield scholar says of The Sound of Music: “It’s clean and classical, and it takes a lot of strength from you mentally and physically. You have to really understand the story to be in the scene.

“The rehearsals are demanding in terms of time and fitness of the voice. You have to concentrate at all times as there is so much detail to remember. Every step that you take counts! The harmonies are always a challenge and are the best part of the show. We really work hard at our harmonising.”

Mikayla attends ballet classes every day and also takes tap and singing lessons. “I love being on stage and hope to pursue musical theatre for many years to come.”

Mikah Jaye Smith, 13, is in Grade 8 at Crawford College, Sandton. She played Gretl in an earlier version of the musical and is delighted to return four years later, but this time as Brigitta. She was also a member of the children’s ensemble in Evita last year. “I am obviously crazy about all musical theatre, but this is certainly one of my favourites.”

Mikah is training hard to be a so-called triple threat, doing ballet, singing and acting.

“The theatre is my passion. I have been blessed to get the opportunity at such a young age to be part of such spectacular musicals and to learn with brilliant and talented casts and crews.

“I plan to work hard and get the skills I need to be the best performer I can because 50% of it is talent and the other half is hard work. It can be exhausting fitting in school and all my extramurals, but I know I have to put the work in if I want to reach my goal.”

The Cohen sisters – Demi, 8, in Grade 3 at King David Victory Park, and Ruby in Grade 1 – both play the roles of Gretl. Demi is proud of her younger sister getting a role. “It’s been such fun practising together,” she said.

Demi, who last year featured in the Peoples Theatre production of Cinderella, says: “I am excited to make new friends and have Von Trapp siblings.”

Ruby, who has no previous stage experience, said it’s “cool” that her older sister is in the show, too


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