“How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?”

The Sound of Music—the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that has been loved around the world for more than half a century—returned to the stage at La Sierra University for the first time since 2012 with four performances between February 29 and March 7. Two separate casts gave students and community volunteers a chance to live out their dreams of playing Maria or other members of the large cast telling the story of the Trapp Family Singers.

Junior vocal performance major Alexandra McBride recalls The Sound of Music as being her parents’ favorite musical. “I can remember crawling into their bed and watching it with them,” she says.

Katie Varela, a member of the local community, played the flute in the orchestra. “It was my favorite musical as a child,” she says. “I watched the movie a hundred times and pretended to be Liesl. I’m so excited to be doing it.”

Raejin Lee, director of vocal studies, and Department of Music chair Dean Anderson led out in rehearsals which twice weekly lit up Hole Memorial Auditorium beginning in October, not long after the start of the academic year. The full orchestra involved local musicians alongside La Sierra students. 

The youngest member of the cast, Savannah Feiler, daughter of Health and Exercise Science professor Kimberly Feiler, is only four but already loves the stage. She played five-year-old Gretel von Trapp. The Sound of Music is her favorite movie, and we had just gone to Austria in September, so she was stoked,” says Kimberly. And the long rehearsals week after week? “She’s totally fine with it,” her mom says. “She wishes it would go longer.”

For Hannah Chang, a sophomore music major, this production represented a coming of age. This was her fifth musical at La Sierra. As a 14-year-old, she was one of the children in “Fiddler on the Roof.” This time, she was cast as Maria.

For Royce Alarte, mathematics instructor at La Sierra, playing Uncle Max in The Sound of Music was quite a change from his role as Prince Charming in last year’s production of Into the Woods. “The spirit is awesome,” he said during a February rehearsal. And “when people flub their lines, it’s funny—for now.”

Crowds to attend the production were the largest of the year at Hole Memorial Auditorium. Behind the scenes, making the performances a success, were two La Sierra University alumni. In 2012—La Sierra’s most recent staging of the beloved musical—director Paulette Jumalon lived out her dream playing Maria. Sara Pinto da Silva did double-duty in this production, appearing onstage as Sister Margueretta and being stage manager. “The Sound of Music has a special place in my heart because I grew up listening to it,” says Pinto. “It’s my go-to music when I want something to feel good.” Judging from the smiles on the faces in the audience, scores of others share that same feeling as well.