From the Contra Costa Times
Singing is way of life for ‘Sound of Music’ cast member
By Lou Fancher Correspondent
EL CERRITO — If Grace Lorenzana had her way, people would belt out “Do Re Mi” while waiting in grocery store lines or warble “Edleweiss” around workplace water coolers.
Lorenzana, appearing in Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” through July 19 as the eldest von Trapp child, Liesl, wishes the world, not just the hills, were alive with the sound of music.
“I always loved Liesl,” she says. “I was in love with her being in love. I wanted that to be life: To break out in song and have it be normal.”
Fortunately for Lorenzana, who had recently taken time away from the stage while focusing on other vocational aspirations and caring for her parents, CCCT Artistic Director Marilyn Langbehn and music director Kevin Roland gave her the perfect opportunity to sing and “have it be normal.”
“She had the complete package,” Langbehn says, about casting Lorenzana. “She had the sensibility, voice and dance skills. She hits the high notes lightly; she’s not someone who stands and blasts, which is the tendency these days of young singers.”
Lorenzana, 27, says landing the role was “a dream come true.” Her favorite song from the show is “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” because it reveals her character’s sassy side. “Liesl is portrayed as innocent, but it’s fun when you can show variations to a character through song.”
Growing up in a Filipino family, Lorenzana was surrounded by music. “Someone was always singing. My brother, Guji, was trying to be Michael Jackson. While cleaning, while doing homework, we sang and it made it more fun.”
But Lorenzana was a shy child and never sang outside of their Santa Clara home other than in the church choir until she auditioned for “Grease” in high school. Landing the part of “Sandy,” she remembers other people’s doubt and her pride after proving she, like her brother, was a performer.
Dividing her energies between two loves–teaching and performing in professional theater–Lorenzana is a teacher at St. Mary of Immaculate Conception School in Walnut Creek and has appeared in the Asian premiere of Disney’s “Aladdin.” She made her television debut as a contestant on “The Voice of the Philippines.”
“Last year was the first time ‘The Voice’ franchised in the Philippines,” she says. “I went back to the Philippines in 2012 to break into more theater work. When they saw our auditions (she and her brother auditioned separately for the show), they thought it would be a good story to be a duet. They liked his ups and downs of getting famous and my trying to make it through theater. They liked our coming back to our roots.”
Coached by Apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas, the Lorenzanas made it to the second round. “Being mentored by a superstar was amazing,” she says. “He trained me to be more confident, to not hide in my brother’s shadow. He worked on the style of my voice, to sing with more intonation, to pronounce my words with more flow instead of being staccato with the syllables.”
Although she says it took hours to learn Sound of Music’s many variations of “Do Re Mi” and to become comfortable with love scenes she and Joe Metheny as Rolf have learned to toss off nonchalantly, Lorenzana spent little time watching the iconic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
“We try to not speak of it because the stage production is different,” she says. “I only watched it before auditions. Once I had the role, I didn’t watch. I went to the script and forgot about the movie.”
Langbehn says not only is the staged play different from the film, the film varies largely from the real life von Trapp story on which it is based. “Any writer looks for the most dramatic narrative,” she says.
And a director deals with portraying the grandeur of Austrian Alps in an El Cerrito theater by emphasizing the play’s characters and content.
“The movie lays a lot of the movement of the story on the love story of Maria and the captain,” Langbehn says. “In the stage play, there’s (emphasis on) the incompatibility (between the Captain’s and Elsa’s) political philosophies — so much separation and difference that it allows the Captain to realize he’s found his true soul mate in Maria.”
Lorenzana says there’s only one binding principle in her life — gratitude for God’s gifts. It fills her heart as she combines nurturing young students’ minds and building a professional acting career in the Bay Area.
IF YOU GO Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave. in El Cerrito, presents “The Sound of Music” through July 19, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays (no performances on July 3 and 4). Tickets and details: www.ccct.org or 510-524-9012.