Philadelphia will be alive with The Sound of Music as the national touring production arrives at the Merriam Theater this month. Based on the true story of the Trapp Family Singers, the show features beloved songs such as Do-Re-Mi, My Favorite Things and So Long, Farewell. DANIELLE LEE JAMES, from Sicklerville, NJ talks to Phindie about her national tour debut as Sister Berthe. James is no stranger to the stage having appeared in such shows as The Lightning Thief, Ragtime, Les Misérables, To Kill a Mockingbird, Seussical the Musical and Hairspray. The proud Wagner College graduate talks about the show and life on the road.
(The Sound of Music will be playing April 24 – 28 at the Merriam Theater)
Debra Danese: What was your first introduction to THE SOUND OF MUSIC?
Danielle Lee James: I was introduced to The Sound of Music as a very young child. My parents weren’t huge musical theatre fans, but they owned four movie musicals on VHS: The Producers, R&H’s Cinderella, Jesus Christ Superstar, and of course, The Sound of Music. It was my favorite of our small, but mighty,) collection!
DD: The original Broadway production opened in 1959. Why do you think the show still appeals to so many people?
DLJ: Though nearly 70 years have passed since The Sound of Music first opened on Broadway, I think the themes of love and doing what one thinks is right remain timeless. Especially in today’s social climate, I think it’s very easy for anyone to put themselves in Maria or Captain von Trapp’s shoes. And obviously, Rodgers and Hammerstein created a score so beautiful, it can’t be disputed!
DD: What is your favorite line or moment in the show?
DLJ: At the end of Act I, the Mother Abbess says to Maria, “These walls were not made to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to find the life you were born to live.” This line really resonates with me, especially in times of uncertainty and fear. I think it takes a lot of courage to face your fears head on and this quote from the Mother Abbess reminds us all that if we hide from the things that scare us, we’ll never know what wonderful, fruitful lives are in store for us.
DD: This is your national tour debut! What has the experience been like so far?
DLJ: I am so excited to be making my National Tour debut! There are so many parts of this country that I’ve fallen in love with, and if it weren’t for this tour, I don’t know if I would have ever seen them. It’s been an absolute dream working with the cast, crew, and creatives on this production. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
DD: What is a typical day on tour like for you?
DLJ: My days on tour really depend on what kind of week we’re having. For example, it could be a multi-city week or one/two week sit-downs. On a multi-city week, my day will start somewhere around 6:00 am. I’ll leave my hotel room, check out of the hotel, and then load onto the tour bus for a nice 4-8 hour bus ride. Once we arrive at the next hotel, my roommate and I will watch an episode or two of “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” (Who doesn’t love Guy Fieri?). Then, about an hour later, we’ll load onto the bus to get to the theatre, do sound check, put on a show, and then get on the bus once more to go back to the hotel. The next day we do the same thing all over again! On one or two week sit-downs, we have a bit more freedom. I’ll typically sleep in until around 10am, eat breakfast, go to the gym and then adventure around the city or relax at the hotel until showtime. I like these days a lot better!
DD: What other roles are on your bucket list?
DLJ: My favorite singer, Anais Mitchell, has a folk opera based on the Greek Myth of Eurydice and Orpheus called Hadestown. I’d absolutely love to play Eurydice or Persephone in that show one day. A few others are Peggy/Maria Reynolds in Hamilton, Sarah in Ragtime, and Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.