News Column

Child with local ties to star on NBC's live 'Sound of Music'

December 2, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 02--Talent flourishes in the branches of Peyton Ella's family tree.

The 7-year-old is just the latest member of that stage-savvy group to blossom in the performing arts, and her skills will be on display for millions of television viewers this Thursday when she stars in the live NBC production of "The Sound of Music."

Everyone on set has said the nicest things about Peyton, said her mother, Tara Kennedy.

"It's just nice to hear great things about your child," she said. "The business is very hard, but it makes it all worthwhile when you're doing something as wonderful as this is."

Peyton's family certainly knows what she faces as a professional performer. Her mother -- who spent much of her childhood in Green Ridge visiting her grandparents, the late Marvin and Lucille Barnes, and considers Scranton to be her hometown -- appeared on Broadway as a child in "I Remember Mama" and "Annie." Peyton's grandmother, Mary Lou Barnes Kennedy, and great-aunt, Patricia Barnes of Scranton, were Radio City Rockettes, and her great-uncle, Chris Barnes, is an actor.

To see her niece and now her grandniece doing well in show business is "absolutely amazing," Ms. Barnes said.

"It's just a real treat to see that we're keeping the talent going or the good genes or whatever," she said. "The gene pool continues. We're just so excited. We can't wait to see ('The Sound of Music')."

Starting dance lessons at age 3 and voice instruction at 6, Peyton starred in several regional theater productions before landing the role of Gretl von Trapp, the youngest daughter in the musical family. Peyton had a great teacher who groomed her, Ms. Kennedy said, and soon she was auditioning for parts.

She almost didn't try out for "The Sound of Music" but changed her mind after spotting a fellow voice student on television coverage of the show's open audition. She was the 545th person in line to try out and nabbed the role after four callbacks.

Peyton, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., with her parents and four siblings, said she likes being in "The Sound of Music" a lot and is having fun. Her favorite song from the show is "So Long, Farewell," which features her and the other von Trapp children.

Ms. Kennedy said Peyton has "amazing ability" and surprises her every day.

"And I'm nervous, but I'm not," she said. "It's a weird emotion because she is in such control for her age. She remembers her lines, and she's right on cue. I've gotten so much positive feedback from everyone here on the set."

Rehearsals began in October for the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical, which starts Carrie Underwood as Maria, a governess who teaches the children of the widowed Captain von Trapp (Stephen Moyer) and ends up falling in love with and marrying him on the eve of World War II.

"She's really nice, and she's really pretty," Peyton said of Miss Underwood. "And I call her 'Care Bear.'"

The cast also includes such notable actors as Audra McDonald, Christian Borle and Laura Benanti.

While Peyton has been tutored during production, Ms. Kennedy said her second-grader is looking forward to going back to school, where her friend Cora awaits, once the show wraps. Beyond that, whether Peyton wants to continue performing is her own decision.

"We're behind her, and her family wants her to do whatever she wants to do," Ms. Kennedy said.

Her daughter has not only learned a lot through the experience but also enjoyed it, Ms. Kennedy said, pointing out how she hears Peyton's infectious laugh a lot on set.

"They really cast a lot of unknown children, including my daughter, of course, and this is one of their first real, major roles," Ms. Kennedy said. "She's learning so much even from the (children playing the) von Trapp siblings. They're all great. They've become this great family, and it's just been a tremendous experience."

Contact the writer: cheaney@timesshamrock.com, @cheaneyTT on TwitterIf you watch

What: "The Sound of Music," starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

Where: NBC

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(c)2013 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

Visit The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) at thetimes-tribune.com

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