Lyric Opera of Chicago

Talkin’ Broadway with Sound of Music Stars Billy Zane and Jenn Gambatese

Just announced — New performances added over Memorial Day weekend due to popular demand!

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Billy Zane

Billy Zane and the cast of Chicago, via Michael Lisnet Photography.

Jenn Gambatese

Jenn Gambatese as Glinda in Wicked.  

Though they are both making Lyric debuts with The Sound of Music, Billy Zane and Jenn Gambatese bring years of expertise as actors—on the screen and on the stage—to the Civic Opera House as they portray Captain von Trapp and Maria from April 25 to May 25.

And neither are strangers to recreating iconic roles. Gambatese has played Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, and was most recently in Chicago as Glinda in Wicked. “I like to joke that I had such big shoes to fill except that Kristin Chenoweth's feet are so tiny, “ laughs Gambatese. “But, be it Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, or—in this case—Mary Martin and Julie Andrews, I can only approach the material the way I imagine they did: bringing the fullest expression of myself to be of service to the author's intent and director's vision.”

Zane was lauded by critics as “dazzlingly handsome and effortlessly magnetic” when he portrayed Chicago’s scheming lawyer Billy Flynn on Broadway. However, he is quick to share credit with his fellow actors. “Any success that I had was merely a reflection of the strength of the well-seasoned ensemble I had the pleasure of working with,” says Zane. “When you work with professionals at the top of their game—as is the caliber of the company assembled for Sound of Music—then they only raise yours.”

Though primarily known for his many great film roles, Chicago native Zane has theater in his DNA. His parents were active in regional theater, so he grew up watching them perform. The acting bug bit him early! His first memory of musical theater on stage was “being one of five kids playing Curly in a production of Oklahoma! at Harand Theatre Camp, age 10.” But he points to watching the legendary Len Cariou in the title role of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd as the definitive moment that made him decide to pursue acting as a career.

A seasoned Broadway performer, Gambatese has loved The Sound of Music since she was a child; she and her brother would watch it on TV every year.  She cannot wait to perform her first Maria at Lyric, because “these songs are, to me, among Rodgers and Hammerstein's very finest. They have become part of our individual and collective consciousness, and I just can't believe I'm going to get to sing them with Lyric's 37-piece orchestra!”

When asked if he’s nervous about singing on the same stage as opera greats such as Callas, Domingo, and Pavarotti, Zane quips, “No pressure!” But he goes on to say that of all the storied places he’s performed—including the Shubert Theater in New York and Haymarket Theater in London’s West End—“Lyric takes the cake! The scope, the history, the beauty. I am humbled, which as you now can imagine is no easy task. ”

Gambatese has only three words: “Dream. Come. True. To tread the same boards that Callas, Tebaldi, and Caballé graced (just to name a few of my personal favorites) is definitely a ‘pinch me’ moment!”

Need more Billy? Learn about Billy Zane’s amazing moviecareer—more than 100 roles!—and his new passion as a visual artist.

Get inside the mind of Sound of Music Director Marc Bruni.


Watch footage from Lyric's first-ever appearance in Chicago's St. Patrick's Day Parade:

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Suggested by "The Trapp Family Singers" by Maria Augusta Trapp

New Lyric Opera production generously made possible by Exclusive Corporate Sponsor Northern Trust. Cosponsors: An Anonymous Donor, Brent and Catherine Gledhill, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, Mr. and Mrs. W. James Farrell, Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills, and The Neundorf Trusts in Memory of Maynette V. Neundorf and John K. Neundorf.

Photos by Getty Images, Joan Marcus, and Todd Rosenberg Photography.