by Lorie Lewis Ham
The classic musical The Sound of Music comes through Fresno in a couple of weeks for two performances at the William Saroyan Theater. We sat down with Mike McLean, who plays Captain Georg von Trapp in this touring production, to learn more about his background and what it is like playing such a well known character.
KRL: How and when did you first become involved in theatre?
Mike: I pretty much followed my sister (Grace McLean) into theater. In 4th grade, she played Thumbelina in a school play. I was in 2nd grade, and I got roped into the show too…I played an ant!
KRL: What inspired you to make it your career?
Mike: It’s the only thing I could stand to do with my time (that is once I realized my professional baseball career wasn’t going to pan out). It’s not easy, but it makes me happy.
KRL: What are some of the other roles you have played?
Mike: I recently had the pleasure of playing the leading man in Brigadoon (Tommy), and that was a lot of fun. One role I’d really like to get to play again is John Proctor in The Crucible. I got to do the part in college, but I’d love to sink my teeth into it again, now that I have some more life experience under my belt.
KRL: Do you have a dream role?
Mike: I used to think it was Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. However, now that I’ve had the chance to play Captain von Trapp, I think I’m playing my dream role every night. It’s a blessing.
KRL: How wonderful!
What has it been like to play such a well-known character, and someone who was real?
Mike: It’s an honor and privilege to be entrusted with a role like this.
KRL: What has been the most rewarding and the hardest about this role?
Mike: This is such a rich story. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much there is to it. Everybody remembers the singing nuns and cute children. So, it’s rewarding to see how moved audiences are by the more serious, adult, and political themes of the show.
The hardest thing is just making sure that we do this story justice.
KRL: Any fun stories to share about touring?
Mike: Once during our romantic song “Something Good”, Jill Christine Wiley (our Maria) lost her shoe. Actually, I stepped on her heel. She did this smooth thing and just took off her other shoe, doing the rest of the song holding her shoes. It was a very “Maria” decision. I think Maria would rather be barefoot than wear heels!
KRL: What is your typical day like on the road?
Mike: it depends on weather or not we are traveling or staying in a city for a while. If it’s a travel day, I’m on the bus for most of the day, take a quick shower at the hotel, and head to the theater for the show. It’s not glamorous. When we get to spend a few days in one place, my days are spent working out, cooking, reading, and generally taking care of my body and voice. Of course, it’s always fun to experience local culture, food, and nightlife around the country.
KRL: What do you think audiences like the best about this show?
Mike: I think audiences most enjoy learning something new about a story they thought they knew. There are very strong themes of self discovery, finding love, and fighting for what is right. We’re trying to provide a fresh look at a classic story. You don’t want to miss it.
The Sound of Music performs in Fresno March 14 and 15 at the Saroyan Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the Broadway Fresno website.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.