Art imitates life for actor in 'Sound of Music'
Isaac Lamb's real-life proposal video has been seen by millions
One of the most poignant scenes in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The Sound of Music," occurs when Captain Von Trapp and ex-postulant Maria realize they love each other, and he proposes.
The proposal scene isn't much of a stretch for actor Isaac Lamb, who plays Von Trapp and proposed for real to Amy Frankel on May 23.
The video of his elaborate, choreographed proposal, in which 60 friends and family members lip-synched to Bruno Mars' "Marry You," was put on YouTube by Lamb and has now been seen by millions and millions of people around the world.
The "Today" show flew the couple to New York for a live interview, and requests and offers for other opportunities continue to this day.
"The morning after the video went online, I had 837 emails in my inbox," Lamb said. "The video just exploded. We were so busy with interview requests and offers to do TV shows and game shows. Some we would never do, but some of the offers have been good, like free wedding photography. That's the challenge - we're now sorting through the offers."
With Frankel starting nursing school and Lamb rehearsing for the Broadway Rose Theatre Company's production of "The Sound of Music," the couple has barely had time to enjoy their engagement.
"We met at an audition for 'West Side Story' at Portland Center Stage in 2006, and she doesn't remember me," Lamb said. "But I noticed her - she was just a little sparkplug."
After he got cut during the audition process, he made a point of going up and talking to her, which she also doesn't remember.
"Over the years, our paths crossed again - she choreographed a play I was in, and we started getting to know each other," Lamb said. "At the beginning of 2009, we started dating."
When Lamb and Frankel, along with her parents from Florida, visited her sister in Massachusetts for Christmas 2011, Lamb asked for permission to marry her and swore the family to secrecy. He only told those involved in the video 1 Â½ weeks before it was shot, and they held one three-hour-long rehearsal.
"My family keeps secrets like a sieve," said Lamb. "I had very specific ideas about who I wanted and where I wanted them to be in the video."
However, he enlisted the help of choreographer and longtime friend Gina Johnson Morris (the girl in the red dress in the video) to stage the six-minute production.
"And then a week later I started rehearsals for 'The Sound of Music,'" Lamb added. "It's been lovely."
Lamb said he actually auditioned for "The Drowsy Chaperone," which is the second of two Broadway Rose summer musicals, but cofounder and artistic director Sharon Maroney called him about "the Sound of Music."
"I was never a "Sound of Music" aficionado, although my sisters always wanted to watch it," Lamb said. "I had seen a couple of stage productions of it, but I wasn't dying to do it when Sharon approached me. I'm usually playing goofy roles. I love them - there is a lot to chew on.
"But Captain Von Trapp is the opposite - noble, quiet, regal, precise and gruff with a military background. It is the total opposite role of what I'm used to doing. Now I can't imagine why I never liked the show."
While the songs from the show are familiar to many people, the story itself is well written too, according to Lamb. "It's a great story set against the backdrop of the Nazi invasion of Austria during World War II," he said. "It's such a beautiful story of life, and the kids in the show are so great and so lovable. It's so lovely to come to rehearsal and play this character. It's a lovely change of pace for me."
Ironically, Lamb said that his mother used to sing "Edelweiss" to him and his siblings at bedtime. "I keep joking that people in the audience will hum along," he said.
Lamb has been friends with Leah Yorkston, who plays Maria, for a while, but they have never worked together. "We've wanted to work together for a long time," he said.
If someone had asked Lamb as a young teenager if he thought he would make a living as an actor, he would have called them crazy.
"I played every sport I could get my hands on," said Lamb, who grew up in Portland in a musical family and attended Jesuit High School. "But sports started to get too competitive, and in my sophomore year, my mom convinced me to try out for 'Pirates of Penzance.' I like to say I was Pirate No. 37."
Even though he had a bit part in the chorus, Lamb found his calling: "It was like a drug," he said. "I touched it, I tasted it, I felt it. I was hooked. Both my parents sang in professional choruses, and everyone in my family is a ham. I had the gene. Even though I had no formal lessons, it was like running into what you are supposed to do."
Lamb went on to appear in every show at Jesuit before graduating and going to Loyola Marymount University, where he majored in film production.
"I didn't do any theater my freshman year, and when I auditioned for my first big main-stage show my sophomore year, the director basically said, 'Where have you been?'"
After graduating, Lamb worked in Los Angeles, and for several years starred in the national tour of "Defending the Caveman," Broadway's longest-running one-person show.
"When I was on tour, I would get a two- or three-month break and come back to Portland and do a play," said Lamb, who also did regional theater for the Red Mountain Theatre Co. in Birmingham. "I always felt I would come back here and set down roots."
In Portland, Lamb has performed with Third Rail Repertory Theatre, where he and Frankel are company members, Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, Lakewood Theatre Company and Northwest Children's Theatre, where he won a Drammy Award for best supporting actor for "Beauty and the Beast."
Lamb also directs theater and film in Portland and teaches theater skills to high school and middle school students, including Broadway Rose's teen summer workshop with Frankel. "Teen camp is really fun," he said.
"I'm very proud of being a professional actor," Lamb added. "People should try being interviewed every three months to get a job like we have to do. It's a different life. It takes a brave and courageous soul to be an actor, but you do it because you can't stand not to do it.
"Theater performs such an important function in our culture. I am an example of how the arts can change people. I was not a fully formed person when I started. Theater made me comfortable in my skin and gave me the values I have in life."