When NBC’s ambitious live production of “The Sound of Music” hits the airwaves Thursday night, Spokane will have a big reason to watch. And that big reason is a 12-year-old girl.
Sophia Caruso, who last wowed local audiences as the lead in Spokane Civic Theatre’s production of “Annie” in 2012, will be playing Brigitta von Trapp, one of the seven von Trapp children, in the live broadcast starring country superstar Carrie Underwood as Maria, Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) as Capt. von Trapp and Broadway legend Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess. (It starts at 8 p.m. on NBC.)
She was in Seattle performing in “Secondhand Lions” at the 5th Avenue Theatre when she got word she’d been cast as Brigitta. She began rehearsals Oct. 17.
“I can check this off my bucket list,” the Spokane native said by phone this week from her home in New York City, where she lives with her mother, Deena Caruso. (Dad Steve is minding the family home in Spokane.) “This is one of my dream roles.”
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Caruso, who also starred in an acclaimed production of “The Miracle Worker” at Interplayers in 2011 – directed by Patty Duke – moved to New York about 18 months ago to pursue acting full time. She’s been taking dance classes since she moved and had a role in an episode of NBC’s “Smash,” doing a song and dance number with Bernadette Peters. She played a young Jillian Barberie in an episode of “Celebrity Ghost Stories,” and has acted in commercials and in a pre-Broadway workshop as a Lost Boy in “Fly,” a Peter Pan musical.
As a von Trapp, she gets to sing some of the most memorable songs from the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II Broadway musical: “Do Re Mi,” “Lonely Goatherd,” “My Favorite Things” and “So Long, Farewell.”
Her favorite is “Lonely Goatherd,” she said, demonstrating a keen “yodel-ye, yodel-ye, yodel-ye he hoo.” Her reason? “Because we get to all cuddle up.”
Generations of Americans know and love the classic 1965 film adaptation of “The Sound of Music” starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Not nearly as many are familiar with the stage musical, which is the basis for the NBC production. The show is being produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“Hairspray,” “Chicago”).
The “Goatherd” scene, for example, will be different than how it’s portrayed in the film, Caruso said. In the movie, Maria and the children sing “My Favorite Things” during the thunderstorm scene. In the musical, “Goatherd” is the song.
Two songs not featured in the movie, “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It” will be in the NBC production. The movie song “I Have Confidence” will not.
“It’s staying true to the story,” Caruso said, “but we’re making it our own.”
Caruso is working with some real luminaries. McDonald, of course, spent four seasons on “Private Practice” and has won two Grammy Awards and five Tony Awards. When asked what it’s been like working with one of the biggest stars on Broadway, Caruso is a quick to set the record straight. “I wouldn’t say she’s the best star on Broadway. She’s the best star anywhere,” she said. “I really have enjoyed working with her.”
As for Underwood, Caruso is quite impressed with the show’s leading lady, who has done very little acting. “When I first saw her, her acting was very good,” Caruso said. “She’s very natural.”
Of course the big challenge today will not only be getting her lines right and hitting her marks – it’s doing it all live (albeit on tape delay for those of us out West) with the signal going to millions of homes. Caruso admitted to being a bit nervous on Monday. No network has tried broadcasting a fully staged television musical in five decades.
“It’s going to be real interesting to see how it goes,” she said, adding that there are plenty of reasons to watch. “The actors in this show are phenomenal.”