Hanna Steps into Leading Role for The Sound of Music

Elissa Hanna of Forest City will be singing her first solo in a big way. She is
portraying the leading role of Maria VonTrapp in BrickStreet Theatre’s upcoming production of
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.
“I have never sung a solo before or even had a part with more than one or two lines,” said
Hanna, whose first time on stage was only two Christmases ago as a chorus member in BrickStreet
Theatre’s White Christmas. “Fortunately, I have loved this musical for so long and seen it so many
times that the lines and lyrics are coming fairly easily.”
Those who frequent the Forest City Farmer’s Market might recognize Hanna as the owner of
Happy Sweets Cupcakes. She is also the wife to Jeremy Hanna and mother to twins Pemberly and
Paisley. For the past month, she’s been studying lines and rehearsing music to also become a
leading lady. Lynnea Fredrickson-Smith, the show’s director, notes the challenges of taking on such
an iconic role as Maria.
“It requires more than just singing and acting abilities,” said Fredrickson-Smith. “You need
to be able to exude a presence that reminds the audience of a character that they know and loves so
well. Elissa is doing that beautifully.”
Hanna is also receiving strong reviews from Nathaniel Hedin-Schmidt, the show’s music
director.
“Elissa is stepping into a role she was meant for,” said Hedin-Schmidt. “Her tender heart
and purity of voice made her a natural to portray this role. It was made famous by Julie Andrews,
but Elissa makes it her own.”
Hanna said she forced herself to overcome nerves two years ago to show up – visibly
nervous – to the auditions for White Christmas. Since then, she’s also appeared in other BrickStreet
shows as a cop in The Pirates of Penzance and a chorus member/Older Belle in A Christmas Carol.
When she auditioned for The Sound of Music, she wrote on her audition sheet that she only wanted
to be a nun. However, the role of Maria holds a special place.
“I don’t remember the first time I saw The Sound of Music, but it was a family favorite
growing up. I’ve probably loved it from the first time I saw it,” she said. “Stepping into the role has
been a challenge all around, but also a dream come true for me as I’ve been able to live through the
character of Maria. I love how she is passionate about her life and how she fiercely loves the
children.”
In fact, performing with the child actors portraying the VonTrapp children is a highlight for
Hanna – in particular, singing classic songs with them such as “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely
Goatherd.” Audiences might be surprised by the placement and staging of some of the songs most
familiar to them, as the stage version of The Sound of Music and the movie version differs, but all the
favorite songs are performed.
“I think Elissa is a great example of one of the best things about community theatre,” said
Fredrickson-Smith. “Just a year and a half ago, she’d never done theatre in her life; now she’s
taking on an iconic role. It’s a great reminder that taking one step out of your comfort zone can
open you to exciting things.”
Other cast members portraying the VonTrapp family include Doug Snyder (Captain), Lydia
Saxton (Liesel), Cooper Littrell (Friedrich), Claire Levine (Louisa), Ian Thompson (Kurt), Claire
Weaver (Brigitta), Aviva Newman (Marta), and Olivia Thompson (Gretl).
Additional cast members are Charles Wycoff (Rolf), Kayla Halfpap (Mother Abbess),
Elizabeth May (Elsa Schrader), Kirk Jefsen (Max Detweiler), Beth Snyder (Sister Berthe), Linda
Ferjak (Sister Margaretta), Vanessa Doden (Sister Sophia), Dan May (Franz), Lindsay Eckerman
(Herr Zeller), Mike Brown (Baron Elberfeld), Joyce Schmidt (Baroness Elberfeld), Tim Fredrickson
(Admiral von Schreiber), Gracie Lackore (New Postulant), Samantha Buffington (Postulant),
Caitlyn Owen (Postulant and u/s for Maria), Rachel Hall (Fraulein Schweiger). In addition those
portraying party-goers or Nazis are Anthony Blome, Trace Gau, John Lentz, and Allen Dong. Those
in the roles of nuns are Sophia Kudej, Lydia Thompson, Tisha Thompson, Helen Rockwell, Diane
Wilson.
This Rodgers and Hammerstein classic will be performed in the Boman Fine Arts Center on
July 21-22 and July 26-28 with the Sunday matinees starting at 2 p.m. and all other performances at
7 p.m. Tickets are general seating only and cost $15 per adult and $10 per student. They are
available through www.brickstreettheatre.org and the Forest City Chamber. Doors open 30 minutes
prior to each performance. Those in need of accessible seating are asked to come early.