Friday, July 07, 2017

The Sound of Music Resonates at The Kennedy Center

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Austin Colby Austin Colby

The metaphorical hills around Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center are once again alive as The Sound of Music wafts into the hearts and minds of theatre-goers. Running until Sunday, July 16th, the beloved musical showcases not only the innate strengths of its performers, but the raw talents of local actor Austin Colby.

“I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. My parents are both Methodist pastors so I grew up loving music by singing in church choirs,” explained Colby. “I did a little theatre in high school, but it wasn’t until studying music at James Madison University that I had the theatre director scoop me up and say ‘Come audition for our musical.’ I did and he cast me as the lead, and I’ve been doing theatre ever since.” Colby has spent the last three years in the D.C. metro area working regularly in theatres like Olney, Signature, Arena, and Toby’s. “Eventually that pushed me to move up to New York City and try out the N.Y. scene. So, this makes it really cool to return to D.C. and perform with this national tour.”

Playing the multi-faceted role of Rolf, Colby’s approach to the character showcases both his vocal and acting range. “[Rolf] is a small role, but he causes a lot of controversy and conflict every time he’s onstage. He starts off talking to Liesel about the fact that times are changing and the fact she’s becoming a woman and she has a lot to learn. So, he’s very flirtatious with her and he represents the shift, the beginning of the shift of the Nazi party taking over Austria. He also showcases how the Nazi party truly split the nation, how people were conforming and how things were going to change.”

One of the joys of being able to perform in the show is the legendary music that all audiences have come to love. “For me to be able to sing ‘16 Going on 17’ each night is such a joy because it’s one of the most recognizable songs in both the show and in musical theatre, in general. I can’t tell people that I’m playing Rolf in The Sound of Music without them singing that song back to me.”

Along with celebrating his return to the D.C. as Rolf, Colby is also taking some time to celebrate and plan his upcoming nuptials to Broadway star Caroline Bowman. “We met through mutual friends,” Colby explained. “I was working at Olney Theatre in Cinderella, and she had some friends in the show. So she came to the show and she met me afterwards and I was just … speechless.” After arranging to have his friend to have a party, one that Bowman was not supposed to attend, the actor was surprised to find her at the party. “We ended up talking until 4 a.m. around a fire pit in their backyard – just the two of us. And the rest, as they say, was history.”

Colby believed that many of the themes that are embedded in The Sound of Music continue to resonate in society today. “Rolf’s choice to join the Nazi party, and the all the adults worried and talking about the Anschluss, all of it stemmed from the nation conforming and not wanting to make any enemies, even though they couldn’t agree with what was going on. Those themes never get old. For any person, regardless of your life story. I think right now as a nation, and doing this performance in our nation’s capital, this is hitting home for a lot of us actors. We’re hoping it’s affecting the audience, too, because there are lot of things we in America don’t agree on and we don’t have uniformity. Right now, we as a nation need to figure out what’s truly right for us as individuals and follow through with that. That’s the enduring theme of The Sound of Music.”


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