One of the most exciting things about reviving a musical or a play at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre – especially the holiday show – is the recollection of memories and stories from previous productions.

We can’t reminisce and not have “Where are they now?” thoughts about the volunteers that brought The Sound of Music to life over the years. In the past few weeks, we caught up with eight bright lights that lit up the Civic stage in former productions of this iconic holiday show in 1998, 2007, and 2013. Here’s what we learned about their Civic experiences of the past, how being a Civic kid shaped their lives, and what they’re up to now. 


2007: Gretl von Trapp

“…my Grandpa was a World War II veteran and he came to see the show… when the Nazi characters came out and into the audience, he audibly boo’d from the crowd.”

CIVIC: What was interesting about your Sound of Music experience? 

SOPHIE: I always loved being in the Holiday Shows- there was something so magical about them. This was only my second of many shows I did at Civic. I was 7 years old when I played Gretl. I have so many memories of this show to this day- idolizing all the older von Trapp Kids, doing press for the show, coming to rehearsal on Halloween in my costume, the first time trying on the costumes- and everything in between. It sure left and impression on seven year-old me. There was a lot of preparation too… we worked with a dialect coach for this show. Penny, our director, also had us kids get a history lesson. We learned a lot about the real von Trapps and their lives. We watched videos about World War II and the Nazi invasion to understand what was happening in the show. The older kids knew, but us younger von Trapps hadn’t even began to touch that in school yet. 

CIVIC: What are some of your other special Sound of Music memories?

SOPHIE: I loved being in this musical so much I begged my mom to let me live in Penny’s office at Civic! I never wanted to leave. We did the iconic braided buns for Gretl… think Princess Leia… and I had extremely thick hair. We at one point counted out how many bobby pins it took to keep in place for the whole show- and it was about 100. Also, my Grandpa was a World War II veteran and he came to see the show… when the Nazi characters came out and into the audience, he audibly boo’d from the crowd.

CIVIC: What was the best part about growing up here at Civic?

SOPHIE: The best part about being a “Civic Kid” were the friendships that turned into family and the opportunity to actively do what I loved. I just knew in my bones from the moment I was in costume backstage and the chills I’d get from the pit playing the overture that being in the performing arts was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

CIVIC: You’ve returned to the stage in your adult life for a few shows, but you’re mostly involved in film now. Tell us about that. 

SOPHIE: I’ve been working in film for almost 12 years with films on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon (Rodeo Girl, The Horse Dancer, The Christmas Bunny); I have 18 feature film credits now. I’ve also done commercials for Ford, Subaru, Whirlpool, and 5Gum. 

CIVIC: What are you up to now?  

SOPHIE: I have been writing and recording music in Nashville for about three years now and will be releasing music and music videos in 2022.  This year, I was blessed to be able to work on Season 1 of a TV show called The Watchers and a Christmas movie-musical called A Civil Christmas. I co-own Inspire Talent Group where we scout and develop talent who are ready to work in larger markets. 

CIVIC: How did your time at Civic shape who you’ve become as a person?  

SOPHIE: Besides just having a fun, magical time, I was able to watch incredible artists and learn from them. From other actors to directors to crew members – it was really great training to pursue a career in the arts! I will always cherish the memories made inside those grand Civic walls. It really was my whole childhood. 

See Sophie’s acting reel, below.


1998: Gretl von Trapp

“According to my mother, after the show closed I said to her: ‘This is what I want to be when I grow up’.”

CIVIC: Do you have a funny story or memory about The Sound of Music?

MADGE: I remember the casting breakdown saying ‘8 and up’ and feeling very mischievous, lying about my age on my audition form because I was a bold 7 and-a-half year old. My mom remembers trying to keep my expectations low after 200+ kids auditioned, but somehow I beat the odds!  I had recently gotten glasses and remember having to get a new pair that fit the period which made me feel like a “serious actor”! I remember being excited to clown around backstage with the other von Trapp kids and nuns… especially the “cool older kids”, the excitement of photo and video shoots for the Grand Rapids Press, and how exciting it was to have friends and family come to the show.  I wore my GRCT show swag to third grade with pride and loved to complain and brag to my classmates about just how tired was from my show last night… clearly I was already a #diva.

CIVIC: What was the significant about your Sound of Music experience? 

MADGE: It was my first show and my gateway into the magical world of LIVE THEATRE!  According to my mother, after the show closed I said to her: “This is what I want to be when I grow up.” 

CIVIC: What was the best part about being a “Civic Kid”? 

MADGE: The community! Performing and studying at GRCT were formative experiences for me! I had supportive, enthusiastic teachers and directors who saw my potential, supported my precociousness, and made me feel like theatre was a safe place.I also came up with so many other talented “Civic Kids” who shared the same enthusiasm and commitment to performing, which ultimately only made us all better. We fed off one another’s talent and drive, which eventually led to us pursuing theatre in not just in our state of Michigan, but in New York City and across the country.

CIVIC: What are some credits that you’re proud of? 

MADGE: First National tour of Kinky Boots, numerous productions regionally at Paper Mill Playhouse and Ogunquit Playhouse, and Broadway Bares!

CIVIC: What are you up to now? 

MADGE: I’m currently living in NYC, recording/producing my first album of original music (slated for winter ’22 release), and pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy. 

CIVIC: How did your time at Civic prepare you for life? 

MADGE: GRCT shaped me in so many ways. I experienced many aspects of the theatrical craft – I drilled monologues with Penny Notter in the education program’s advanced acting class, tried to my face in William Schutte’s dance calls, and gained an appreciation for all things backstage by building sets and selling tickets in the Summer Stock program. I got to learn from local legends, many of whom had gone to major markets to perform and returned to give back their knowledge. Getting to work with and learn from them helped me see that working in theatre professionally was possible. Not only was I presented with a competitive yet supportive artistic environment, I grew as a human as well. I also learned to work well with others, be gracious in the face of rejection, and to communicate effectively. 

See Madge sing “Rise Up” originally recorded by Andra Day, below.

L-R: Madge on stage with the other von Trapp children, backstage, making music today in NYC


Kurt von Trapp: 2007 production

“Looking back I think this was the start of me wanting to work with hair and makeup design.”

CIVIC: What made your Sound of Music experience significant? 

WILL: It was my first time getting to see a new production be built and put together. It was an invaluable experience.

CIVIC: Do you have a special memory about Sound of Music?

WILL: I was obsessed with the two rented Wig Boys wigs in the show, one on Alyssa Bauer as Maria after she gets married to the Captain and the other on the Aubry Talbott as the Baroness. Looking back I think this was the start of me wanting to work with hair and makeup design.

CIVIC: What was the best part about being a “Civic Kid”?

WILL: Getting to watch professional designers work on a production and realizing that I could grow up to do that job. Those times shaped the designer that I am now. 

CIVIC: You went to college to study theatrical wig and makeup design in St. Louis, where you met your creative partner who you run The Wig Associates with, and then moved to New York. What was your first gig on Broadway?

WILL: For the iconic Phantom of the Opera! I’ve also worked on Wicked (Broadway/national tour), King Kong (Broadway), Soft Power (The Public), Mrs. Warrens Profession (Gingold Group), and several shows with walnut street theatre: Shrek, A Woman of No Importance, The Best Man, Beehive, The Little Mermaid, Blythe Spirit. 

CIVIC: And what are you up to these days?

WILL: Designing wigs and makeup, and working as the assistant hair and makeup supervisor for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway. 

You can check out Will’s work at, and remember the mention of those incredible wigs Will first fell in love with in the 2007 production of The Sound of Music? Will was hired to design the wigs for the current production on stage now at Civic.

Will on the job with his company The Wig Associates in NYC


2007: Rolf Gruber

“Civic was my home away from home.  It allowed me the opportunity to do what I love while also experiencing life with so many unique and beautiful people.”

CIVIC: What did you love the most about your Sound of Music experience? 

BRIAN: Sharing the stage with Mary Little as Liesl.  Ironically she was ‘16 going on 17’ and I was ‘17 going on 18’ …  just as written.  Dancing and singing with her every night and sharing a kiss was always a highlight. Also, at the time I was fulfilling an internship with Director Penelope Notter.  It was my first time that I was invited to sit “behind the audition table”.  I will never forget the feeling we ALL had when Alyssa Bauer walked through the door and began to sing… instantly we knew… she was our Maria! 

CIVIC: What is a sweet memory you have of your time in the show? 

BRIAN: Edith Freyer and I were asked to assist in cleaning up the choreography with the von Trapp children.  Just before going on for opening night we informed our Gretl to be fearless as the cuckoo bird in “So Long, Farewell.”  Let’s just say she BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN with her bird moves, and the Grand Rapids Press even wrote an entire paragraph about how special it was.  It had us all giggling.

CIVIC: You grew up as a Civic Kid… what was the best part about that? 

BRIAN: The people you get to learn with and grow from.  Experiences and education that is simply priceless. Friendships that last a lifetime.

CIVIC: You’ve worked so hard in this industry. What are some of the things you’ve done prior to your current gig?

BRIAN: I was fortunate to have travelled the country with numerous National tours like Bullets Over Broadway (u/s Cheech), Beauty and the Beast (u/s Lumiere), Elf, and Guys and Dolls. I also worked regionally in Chicago (Fred Casley, u/s Billy Flynn) at Fulton Playhouse, Mary Poppins at Paper Mill Playhouse, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Daniel) and Oklahoma! at Ogunquit Playhouse, A Chorus Line (Bobby) at Surflight, and Tarzan (Tarzan) at Wagon Wheel Theatre.

CIVIC: We saw that your parents, brother, and niece all made the trip from Grand Rapids to New York City this past week for the opening of something special… 


CIVIC: Congrats on your Broadway debt! How did your time at Civic help lead you to this moment?

BRIAN: Civic was my home away from home.  It allowed me the opportunity to do what I love while also experiencing life with so many unique and beautiful people. It taught me how to be a professional in the business, while holding on to the love of the art.  I’ll forever cherish my memories in those walls.

CIVIC: Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

BRIAN: Just that I love and miss you all. 

Watch below to see Brian in American Dance Machine’s Bullets Over Broadway tribute to the late Nick Cordero. 


2007: Ensemble

“The love we had for each other, helped me fall in love with this line of work”

CIVIC: What was so formative about your Sound of Music experience? 

AARON: The closeness of the entire cast and community, and the love we had for each other, helped me fall in love with this line of work. We were there for each other each and every rehearsal and performance. I felt like I had found “my people”.

CIVIC: Do you have a funny story or memory about Sound of Music? 

AARON: When the entire production stopped mid-“Climb Every Mountain” due to an (accidental) fire alarm. It was near the climax of the song too – very dramatic.  Our stage manager would make jokes about it over and over again for the remainder of the run. OH. And the fire alarm would go off accidentally AGAIN a few shows later, for a completely different reason.

CIVIC: Sidebar… your Stage Manager returned to assist at a few performances during this 2021 run of the show, and on Thanksgiving night she handed the reins back over… well, the power went out in downtown Grand Rapids, about three quarters of the way through the performance. Live theatre always keeps us on our toes! Anyway… What was the best part about being a “Civic Kid”? 

AARON: Even though I was in the ensemble and not necessarily a von Trapp kid, I still got to experience what it was like being in the Sound Of Music family. There was lots of love and support I don’t take for granted, especially now living in Los Angeles.

CIVIC: Los Angeles! It’s been a long time since you’ve been on stage in Grand Rapids, but you’re still acting, yes?

AARON: I work in Film/Television and have appeared on CBS’ Criminal Minds, Hulu’s Love Victor, Nickelodeon’s Game Shakers, ABC’s For The People, and more.

CIVIC: What are you up to now?  

AARON: Acting, writing, and producing in Los Angeles, California!

CIVIC: How did your time at Civic shape who you’ve become as a person? 

AARON: The different summer programs and shows I was blessed to be a part of helped build the artist I am now. I learned so much and grew to love the field of work I work in to this day. Wouldn’t trade my time there for the world.


 1998: Brigitta von Trapp

“It taught me how beautiful and important the theatre community is”

CIVIC: What were the things that made your Sound of Music experience so special to you? 

LAURIE: I LOVED the Sound of Music movie, especially the character of Brigitta. I was always drawn to her out of all of the children, so when I found out GRCT was going to be doing the show, and that I was the right age for Brigitta, I was just so excited to audition! I also did the show with my older sister Jana, who played Louisa.

CIVIC: What do you remember most?

LAURIE: Well it was quite a while ago! I don’t have any specific stories, but all good memories! I loved the show, I loved the cast, it was just a wonderful experience!

CIVIC: What was the best part about growing up inside these walls of Civic Theatre?

LAURIE: I knew I wanted to be a professional actor when I was 9 years old, so I really loved auditioning for anything I could, I LOVED being in Civic’s shows –  performing and being part of such an amazing community. All the experiences I had at Civic felt so professional. It really helped shape me and prepare me for going to school for musical theatre and then moving into the business as a professional actor.

CIVIC: It’s been so exciting to watch you and cheer you on from afar as you’ve pursued your career. For those who don’t know, what are some of your credits?

LAURIE: Plaza Suite (u/s Jean/Mimsy), Mamma Mia! (Sophie Sheridan), and Newsies (Hannah/Smalls/ensemble, u/s Katherine) on Broadway. The National Tours of Fiasco Theater’s Into the Woods (Cinderella/Granny), Hairspray (Brenda, u/s Tracy and Penny).  And regionally, Thoroughly Modern Millie (Millie), Beauty and the Beast (Belle), Steel Magnolias (Shelby), Newsies (Katherine), A Little Night Music (Anne), Next to Normal (Natalie), and more.

CIVIC: You are one of our Civic alum’s whose work on Broadway was halted in 2020. Tell us about that, and what’s in the works now. 

LAURIE: Before the pandemic I was a part of the cast of Plaza Suite that was about to open on Broadway. We were going to have our first invited dress rehearsal the night Broadway shut down. But everyone is so committed to the show, we are slated to return to Broadway and start previews February 25, 2022, just about two years after our original start dates.

CIVIC: What did your time at Civic teach you? 

LAURIE: It helped me discover my passion! After my first ever audition and being cast at Civic, I KNEW it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So all of a sudden I had a laser focus on taking classes, auditioning for everything I could, and working really hard in school. All of that taught me how to prioritize and manage my time with school and dance/acting/singing lessons and rehearsal and shows. It taught me how beautiful and important the theatre community is, and to always work hard, be professional, respectful, and kind!

CIVIC: Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

LAURIE: I’m so thankful for my time at GRCT, and every theatre I was able to be a part of in and around Grand Rapids, and the beautiful 10 shows I was in at Civic! My time there definitely helped shape me and prepare me to continue pursuing my love and passion of theatre!

Top C: Erin Dilly, Laurie Veldheer, John Benjamin Hickey  Inside Rehearsals! for Plaza Suite on Broadway (

Bottom: Laurie with the other 1998 von Trapp children and Maria


2007: Liesl von Trapp

“I’m so grateful Civic was a part of my teenage years; I look back with such fond memories.”

CIVIC: What was particularly special about your Sound of Music experience? 

MARY: My time in Sound of Music was special in so many ways… I loved spending time with the other von Trapp kids, who truly felt as if they were my younger siblings, laughing with Brian Martin during dance rehearsals, and learning from Alyssa, who played Maria with such grace and humility! 

 CIVIC: What’s a funny memory you have about performing with Brian?

MARY: Brian and I were good friends, and he played my character’s love interest in the show. Well, he had found out my high school boyfriend was in the audience one evening and told me he was going to extend our on-stage kiss a few seconds just to stir the pot! 

CIVIC: What was the best part about being a “Civic Kid”?

MARY: Being a civic kid taught me so much about discipline, creativity and teamwork. It also introduced me to my first love of performing. 

CIVIC: You’ve had such amazing and interesting theatre experiences over the years! Tell us about some of those.

MARY: I did many regional shows around the country, including playing Sandy in Grease at Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine for George Bush Sr. and Barbara Bush in a theatre filled with Secret Service. I was in an original musical in Las Vegas based on the Duck Dynasty family, and I also got to play my dream role of Eponine in Les Mis at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. 

CIVIC: And life is just a little different now, yes?

MARY: I currently live in Rochester, Michigan and I’m pursuing my passion of writing a four-book fantasy series! I completed the second novel this month and am busy working with an editor! 

CIVIC: How did your time at Civic have an effect on you?

MARY: I met so many incredible people through Civic, including my husband! GRCT also opened me up to performing at a young age and gave me so much confidence. I’m so grateful Civic was a part of my teenage years; I look back with such fond memories. 

Mary and her husband Reed met at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre


2013: Kurt von Trapp

“…being surrounded by my second family – my theatre family – during the holiday season was the best treat.”

CIVIC: What was so special about your time in The Sound of Music? 

ADAM: I got be cast with an amazing group of kids. We really bonded and formed a family dynamic off stage, and that was very special to me. Also, being surrounded by second family – my theatre family – during the holiday season was the best treat. 

CIVIC: Do you have a funny story about Sound of Music?

ADAM: I was cast as Kurt before my voice began to change and get lower, and let’s just say… my voice started to change during the performances. Some nights I had some rough, yet hilarious, voice cracks when I’d try to reach for the high notes. I also remember the quick changes being so chaotic and crazy. I had an amazing dressing team, and they really helped me nail down those full outfit changes – however, we sometimes had some funny mishaps.  

CIVIC: You got involved at Civic after your older sister, Amanda, was actively involved at GRCT. What was it like to be a part of the “Civic Kid” family during Sound of Music

ADAM: Even though we were the “kids” in the cast, we were treated with the same level of respect as everyone else. I got very close to a lot of the adults in the cast, and I always felt safe when going to them for questions. 

CIVIC: While music and a love for theatre remain an important part of your life, you haven’t been in many musicals lately, correct? 

ADAM: Right! I no longer study theater or perform as of now due to being in college for music production.

CIVIC: Tell us about that!

ADAM: I’m living in Los Angeles studying Music Production and Recording at the Los Angeles College of Music. I’ve been working hard on my upcoming debut album while also balancing school and social media. Through establishing a following on social media, I’ve been able to have some incredible opportunities like going to the Grammys and being an MTV VMA Nominee! 

CIVIC: We’ll be able to say “we knew him when…”! What kind of impact did Civic have on your life?

ADAM: I grew up very fast – and I mean that in a good way. I learned how important it was to respect other people’s time and energy, as well as the art that we were working on. Doing theatre at Civic truly made me a better person in the long run.

CLICK HERE to hear one of Adam’s 2021 singles, “You”. Below, check out Adam’s interview with On Air with Ryan Seacrest about this viral mashup

L-R: Adam (L) with the 2007 von Trapp kids; as a nominee at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards in Brooklyn

The Sound of Music runs through December 19th at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. To experience the new generation of Civic von Trapp children – Ashley Isenhoff, Christian Moorlag, Ellie Brower, Miro Alan Alagoz, Anna Morris, Cameron Kok, Anna Paarlberg, Olivia DeMarco and Eleanor Paarlberg – get your tickets at