Homeschool student steps in to save VHS’ “Sound of Music”

Homeschool student John Paul Kinney, who played Captain von Trapp, stepped in to help the Vandegrift theater department in a pinch to put on “The Sound of Music”. He drove some 20 miles to come in for practice each day. ANGELA PHAN

By HARSHITA AVIRNENI, Vandegrift Voice

The show must go on. Homeschooled senior John Paul Kinney played the role of Captain von Trapp in the Vandegrift theater production “The Sound of Music”. Kinney was asked to fill in three weeks before opening night after the original cast member junior Sam Smoot got pneumonia.

“I love the show and the role,” said Kinney, of northeast Austin who lives some 20 miles from Vandegrift. He was excited to be asked to play Captain von Trapp. “I’m a pretty reserved kind of guy but the first word to come out of my mouth was ‘abso-freaking-lutely’.”

Director Celeste Schneider said she asked all the boys in theater and choir if they would be able to fill in but no one could.

“I knew I had to find someone or we would have to possibly cancel the whole thing,” Schneider said.

Ironically Schneider had contacted Christian Youth Theater Austin, which had done “The Sound of Music” in the spring, about nun costumes. It just so happened the person who worked on the nun costumes, and many others, was Kinney’s mom, Kathy. So as it ended up Schneider invited Kinney to audition.

“I was nervous until he came the first day and I watched him. [He was] so sweet and said that he would be honored to [play von Trapp]. He jumped right in,” Schneider said.

Kinney memorized everything in two and a half days. He had played von Trapp in the junior version with CYT but still had to learn lots of new lines for the Vandegrift version.

“Memorizing lines and dances was not easy, but I had abundant help from the stage managers and my fellow cast members,” Kinney said.

Senior Emily Densmore, who played Maria von Trapp, said her favorite part about working with Kinney was how determined and professional he was. Densmore knew Kinney from CYT productions.

“When he is on stage, he is on stage and nothing else matters,” Densmore said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. John Paul is very talented.”

Kinney said he has two favorite scenes: when Captain von Trapp unquestionably denies the Nazis and risks everything to stand by his morals; and just before the finale when the captain sings a simple folk song called “Edelweiss,” named after a flower in Austria, asking for a blessing upon his homeland.

“This song has a special significance for me,” Kinney said. “It was my dad’s favorite song, and before he passed away he sang it quite often. It always reminds of him, and I tried every night to do it just the way he did. I hope I did it justice.”

Kinney has been dancing and singing for years, having been in a dozen musicals including “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Seussical”. Kinney was also a member of the Texas Private School Music Association’s All-State Choir in 2017 and again a soloist in 2018.

“I have been a member of many different performing groups, and I’ve found that the best companies are the ones that act like a big family,” Kinney said. “They love and trust each other on a whole different level, and that’s very important in theatre. This cast welcomed me as part of the family in a matter of hours. Vandegrift theatre has truly become a home for me, and I will always cherish that.”

Vandegrift theatre performed “The Sound of Music” Oct. 25 – 27. They are now working on “The Miracle Worker” to be performed Jan. 17 – 19.