Just like many of us, Kerstin Anderson grew up loving Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music. Who doesn’t? Andrews as Maria is an icon — which is why stepping into the role can be a little daunting.
“I grew up watching the movie, and I loved it,” says Anderson, 21, who plays Maria in the production opening Tuesday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. “When I got the role, I thought, ‘Wow.’ But our director Jack O’Brien was great about making me realize he didn’t want me to be Julie Andrews. He wanted my version of Maria. It was very liberating as an actor and a person. You can bring yourself to the role.”
Maria, the most iconic role Anderson has ever played, is her first touring role. A student at Pace University, she’s pursuing a BFA in musical theater, which she has loved since she was a child.
“My parents told me I was singing in the car all the time,” she says. “My father would call me his radio because I wouldn’t stop singing. Musical theater is just super natural to me.”
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The show, which runs through Sunday, also stars Ben Davis as Captain Von Trapp and a host of young performers playing his seven children. Luckily Anderson likes working with kids — “They keep you on your toes,” she says, adding that she loves performing My Favorite Things with the young cast. She also has high praise for Tony Award-winning director O’Brien (for Hairspray, Henry IV and The Coast of Utopia).
Touring in his production has been a terrific experience, she says.
“I’m learning so much as we go,” she says. “I’m learning so much more about the characters and the storyline. I think doing a long run like this can be challenging — there’s much more pressure to keep it fresh. But it injects you into the story in a really wonderful way. I’ve never known this much about a character. I’m usually doing 14 performances instead of 300.”
Like all performers, Anderson has her dream roles: No. 1 is the Baker’s Wife from Into the Woods, though she thinks she might need to be a little older to pull it off. She’d also love to play Martha in The Secret Garden (“I really love it; the music is beautiful.”) But playing Maria has its advantages, she says.
“It would be fun to play a villain or a super mean girl, but I love playing Maria because she is so optimistic. She teaches you to be that way in your life. I think that’s the best way to live, with a positive attitude. Playing her every night is a good reminder.”
“The Sound of Music” runs 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday at Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; $29-$145; arshtcenter.org