Most 11-year-olds have busy after school schedules, but few involve rehearsing with the Lyric Opera of Chicago six days a week.
Spunky Sophie Varones of Ft. Sheridan landed the role as understudy to Brigitta von Trapp in the Rodgers and Hammerstein family classic, “The Sound of Music,” which will be performed Friday, April 25, through Sunday, May 25.
Her first professional performance is a dream for Sophie, who puts the world-famous musical at the top of her list of favorite movies. Before this, the fifth-grader at Lake Forest Country Day School acted locally with The Performer’s School in Highwood, The Music Theatre Company in Highland Park and at the Performing Arts Summer Theatre Academy in Lake Forest.
Sophie views the Lyric Opera experience as a privilege and a stepping-stone to a career on the stage — and encourages others to shoot for the stars.
Q. What prompted you to audition as Brigitta for the Lyric Opera of Chicago?
A. “I really like the ‘Sound of Music.’ It’s a great movie and a great play. I first auditioned for the live ‘Sound of Music’ in New York on open call — the one with Carrie Underwood (broadcast nationally in December 2013.) I got one callback, but I didn’t get another callback. I decided then the ‘Sound of Music’ was a play I was meant to be in. It fits me really well. When I found out about the Lyric Opera production about a month ago, I decided to audition on a whim for the same role. It was a long-shot.”
Q. What did you have to do for the audition?
A. “There were three auditions — one audition and two callbacks. For the first one, I had to prepare two monologues from the script and sing two songs from the play: ‘So Long, Farewell’ and ‘Do, Re, Mi.’ The first callback, I had to do the exact same thing and sing a third song — ‘The Lonely Goatherd.’ For the last callback, they gave us a harmony we had to sing and we had to redo everything we did for the first two auditions.”
Q. How did you find out you were hired as the Brigitta understudy?
A. “Ten minutes after the last callback, we were walking to dinner in Chicago and they called us. We were like freaking out. I first thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be so much fun.’ It’s my first professional play, so I had no idea what this was going to be like.”
Q. What are the rehearsals like?
A. “It’s really fun. Everybody’s so nice. All the characters are amazing. It’s a great experience. We rehearse every day for four hours — from 4 to 8 p.m. — except for Sundays. We usually stage numbers, go over scenes and music. Sometimes we just have music rehearsal with the kids, Maria and the Captain (played by Billy Zane of ‘Titanic.’) Then we stage in a huge room as big as a football field at the Lyric Opera.”
Q. Did you ever imagine that one day you would be hired by the Lyric Opera of Chicago?
A. “I never did. I actually thought I would stay at P.A.S.T.A., which I’m still doing this summer. And it’s great, because I love it. But it’s great that I got this part (as understudy). I’m very excited.”
Q. What is your future dream?
A. “I hope to continue in this whole acting and singing thing. I love it so much. I hope to one day be Maria in ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Q. What advice do you offer to other aspiring actors and actresses?
A. “Go for whatever you want to audition for, be yourself and work really hard.”