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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER The hills are alive with Christopher Carl
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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The classic musical The Sound of Music is returning to Chicago on tour this time directed by three time Tony Award winner Jack O'Brien. The story of the von Trapp family continues to be a favorite thing for generation after generation. Set in Salzburg, Austria, right before World War II, Maria Rainer is sent to live with as a governess for a large family. A love story unfolds with classic songs such as "Edelweiss" and "Do-Re-Mi."

Christopher Carl plays Admiral von Schreiber in this production, along with understudying for Captain George von Trapp and Max. His background consists of some Broadway hits such as Tarzan, South Pacific, and Mamma Mia! No stranger to tour he has been seen in The Phantom of the Opera, Camelot, My Fail Lady, and South Pacific.

Windy City Times: Hi, Christopher. You are currently in New York?

Christopher Carl: Yes, but I am originally from Indiana, not too far from Fort Wayne, in Huntington. I was Dan Quayle paperboy back in the day!

I moved to New York in December of 1987 so it has almost been 30 years.

WCT: You have done a huge amount of work.

CC: I have been busy, knock on wood. I went to Ball State and was a secondary education major. I was thinking of doing teaching but once I started I realized the audiences weren't large enough or as attentive as I wanted them to be. [Laughs]

WCT: Talk about your character in The Sound of Music.

CC: I am playing Admiral von Schreiber, who really doesn't make an entrance until the very end of the show. I think it is more of an insurance policy because the ones that play the smaller adult roles play other parts. I am the Captain and Max cover, so I am a double cover. I'm an insurance policy that is wrapped into several different things.

WCT: So if anyone gets sick, then you are there for them?

CC: That's right, or if they take personal days or vacations, I am pushed right into the role. It is much less stressful if you see a vacation coming than getting a call an hour before finding I have to go on. I will change mode and the adrenalin is rushing. It is an interesting part of the career.

WCT: Is there differences in this Sound of Music from past productions?

CC: Jack O'Brien wanted to skew everything a bit younger. Kerstin Anderson plays Maria and just turned 21 as soon as we started the tour. Usually Marias have been older to the point where Mary Martin was in her '40s when she did it.

Jack angled it younger to have youthful energy in the show. It makes for a much less maternal Maria and more of a contemporary of Liesl.

WCT: There are not technically any gay characters in the Sound of Music?

CC: No, but Max is interesting because he is of a time period where if a man was not married by a certain age he was the confirmed old bachelor. I will say when I go on for Max I always approach it from the angle that he is gay.

When the Nazis come in, he is basically being questioned as to who he is and what is he doing there. There is a whole different angle if you play that as a gay character because his stakes are bumped up enormously when a Nazis is in his face wanting to know his name. Suddenly, it is a whole different ball of wax than just Uncle Max.

Until this day and age that couldn't be played as it is now because I think as audience members we are much more sensitive to that. It makes it a much more interesting character to play.

WCT: Did you see Carrie Underwood's version of Sound of Music on TV?

CC: I did and I will say this. It brought a whole new generation of people into the realm of loving theater. Everything has its faults but if it developed any kind of love of theater then it was successful.

WCT: Audiences may have not known who Audra McDonald, who played Mother Abbess, was before that.

CC: Exactly. She is a household name in the theater community but she branched out and became something much bigger.

WCT: There was Gaga's rendition of Sound's songs also.

CC: Yes, when she did the Academy Awards montage. We are putting Rodgers and Hammerstein back into the common vernacular.

WCT: Your resume has lots of classic musicals in it.

CC: Yes, and it is interesting to see how how theater is morphing a bit. I have had to add things into my audition book that when I started I would never have had to have a pop rock song in my repertoire. Theater has morphed to keep up with society. Look at Hamilton, 20 years ago that never would have been on Broadway. Now it is the toast of the season. You have to give the public what they want.

Luckily there are people who love the old classics because that is my meat and potatoes. Give me a bouncy C and fun lyric and I am ready to go. Ask me to rap and I will fall apart right in front of your eyes!

WCT: Do you like all the traveling, with being on tour?

CC: I have grown accustomed to it. I have been doing it for a couple of decades. I am either on the road or doing summer stock that takes me out of town. It is a great way to see the country and get paid. Touring and traveling for me can be very exciting.

As long as I have been in this career, I have never played Chicago. I have always joined a company that has left or I left before I played Chicago. Even when I was in Chicago the Musical they had already played Chicago by the time I joined. It is ironic that I am from a place that is so close to Chicago. I am really looking forward to being there. I wish it were longer. Two weeks is not enough!

The Sound of Music plays June 7-19 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. Visit or call 800-775-2000.

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