A motherly role

Beloved P.E.I. actress Glenda Landry draws on her own experiences to play Mother Abbess in ‘The Sound of Music’ at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 11, 2016

When actress Glenda Landry landed the role of Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music” this winter, she didn’t have far to look for inspiration.

She simply thought of her childhood on Prince Edward Island.

“I went to a convent school. I was raised by the nuns. Then, when I was in Grade 5, I wanted to be a nun. But, by Grade 7 that was all over,” says Landry, with a giggle.

Her natural enthusiasm for the role didn’t stop there.

The Charlottetown actress also drew from her experiences raising her own family.

“I am a mother and so in this musical I got to be a mother again, with all the mother love inside me. So it was interesting to be a mother to Maria and make her, through tough love, go back and face her problems instead of running to the abbey to hide. And that’s what we, as mothers, teach,” says Landry of the scene in the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that played the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, N.B. from Feb. 18-21.

In the timeless story Mother Abbess gently but firmly steers Maria, the young novice, away from the nunnery and into the arms of Captain von Trapp with her stirring performance of Climb Every Mountain.

“Mother Abbess is just as the word describes, a mother. She’s a mother to the newpostulantand a mother figure to Maria.

And that’s what I loved about playing her.

“As well I loved getting to use my high soprano voice. I also loved singing Climb Every Mountain, which closes Act 1, using my high soprano voice with no vibrato,” says Landry, of the professional production that was directed by Marshall Button with musical direction by Tony Delgado.

It’s not the first time that Landry has been cast in “The Sound of Music.” Twenty years ago she played the role of Maria in a production directed by Brian Stevens.

However, Prince Edward Islanders are most familiar with her work at the Charlottetown Festival.

Landry, who grew up in Charlottetown, joined the cast of “Anne of Green Gables - The Musical” in 1970 and played Diana Barry for the next 20 years before moving on to the roles of Mrs. Spencer and Mrs. Sloane. In 2011, she played Mrs. Pye. Last summer, she played Rachel Lynde. Other credits at the Confederation Centre, include “Evangeline”, “The Full Monty”, “Kitchen Witches”, “The Great Adventure”, “Johnny Belinda”, “The Dumbbells” and “Something Wonderful.” Landry has also performed in productions of “The Wizard of Oz”, “Extraordinary” and “Prisoner of Second Avenue”.

And while her latest performance, “The Sound of Music” was “a happy time”, it brought back many early memories.

“All my life I’ve watched nuns. They rarely spoke, just gestured. So if they wanted us to do something, they’d gesture for us to sit down, stand up or leave the room. So, in the musical every time I wanted the nuns to do something, there was always a gesture that went with it.

“They also sat with a very straight back, which is why I am going to massage therapy in one hour,” says Landry, with another laugh.

Fast facts:

Who: Glenda Landry.

Favourite activities: Acting and cooking.

Favourite line from the musical: “You have to find the life you were born to live.” Landry says that was the lesson Mother Abbess needed to teach Maria and, indeed, what most parents need to teach their children.