This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
When he was cast in “The Sound of Music” at 20 years old, Dan Truhitte didn’t know how huge the film would one day be – but he knew he was surrounded by talent.
“I don’t think I knew that it would have the longevity that it has had,” said Truhitte, who played Rolfe Gruber in the 1965 film. “But we knew we had something great, because of who we had.”
It’s been a long time since Truhitte, now 70, played Rolfe, the Austrian telegraph delivery boy who performs “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” – and later turns the Von Trapp family over to the Nazis.This October, Truhitte will take up a different role on a small-town stage, portraying Captain Von Trapp in the Hudson dinner theater production of “The Sound of Music,” which starts Oct. 11.
That happened, at least in part, because theater director Keith Smith goes to an out-of-town dentist. After his most recent appointment, he was eating at Troutman’s Barbecue in Concord and struck up a conversation with a few waitresses.
One of them pointed Truhitte out and told Smith, “He was in ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Smith asked whether she meant he had been in a local production of “The Sound of Music.” No, the waitress said, the man had been in the original “The Sound of Music.”
Smith introduced himself to Truhitte. They struck up a conversation and, later, over email, a friendship. Smith was already making plans for the Hudson production of “The Sound of Music” when he met Truhitte, and a few emails into the relationship Smith asked: Will you star in our show?
Truhitte said yes. Almost 50 years after the release of “The Sound of Music,” he will play Captain Von Trapp alongside community actors ages 7 to 75 onstage at the Hudson Uptown Building.
It’s not the first time Truhitte has returned to the well-loved musical. Twenty years ago, the Old Courthouse Theater in Concord – Truhitte’s adopted hometown – asked him to play the captain. He said yes then, too, prompting a nostalgic media blitz – including a six-minute spot on “Entertainment Tonight.”
Truhitte is not a North Carolina native. He was born in Sacramento and spent most of his life in Los Angeles, but he relocated to Concord in 1989 and has strong feelings for the Old North State.
“I was at a point in my life where I’d been very successful, but I kind of wanted to relocate and start my life again,” Truhitte said. “And having toured the United States, there’s no place like North Carolina.”
He feels strongly about “The Sound of Music,” as well. In an interview Monday, he reminisced lovingly about those days, when he was 20, not really 17 going on 18, about being the last actor cast in the film and having to convince the higher-ups he could believably sell out the Von Trapps, and about the day he met Julie Andrews.
He spoke reverently about legendary composers Rodgers and Hammerstein, and about “Edelweiss,” the last song that Oscar Hammerstein wrote. He talked about the way the musical “saved” 20th Century Fox, fresh off a series of box-office duds.
Smith shares this dedication to the show, and it’s part of the rapport he and Truhitte have built. In the interview, both of them talked about the sorrow of the show and the loss audiences feel when the Von Trapps are thwarted by the Nazis and the note of hope on which the musical ultimately ends.
Truhitte wants to give his Hudson audiences “a Captain they can remember,” he said.
“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “I’m going to put every bit of ability I have into it.”
But when the first chords to “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” start, Truhitte admitted, he might be mouthing the words in the wings.
“How can I not?” he said. “It’s just been such a part of my life.”