One makes an evil bunny rabbit face while the other giggles and tries to mimic her.
They correct each other. And finish each other’s sentences. And giggle more.
Danbury’s Grace Rundhaug and Irvington’s Peyton Ella play Marta and Gretl, respectively, the youngest members of the Family von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” live on national TV.
Carrie Underwood, who has asked the girls to call her “Care Bear,” plays Fraulein Maria, their governess turned mother.
Local audiences might recall Grace as Marta at Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic this summer. That experience playing the second-to-youngest von Trapp taught the eight-year-old third-grader that Marta is shy, volunteers little about herself, and likes the color pink.
Of all of the songs and scenes in the show, Grace singles out “Lonely Goatherd” as a favorite, staged in Maria’s bedroom during a violent storm. In the film version, the song “My Favorite Things” is set there, but this NBC version sticks to the original Broadway script.
Becoming NBC Austrians meant sticking out among a sea of would-be von Trapps. More than 700 pint-sized actresses auditioned; Grace was No. 88. Peyton, who is 7, and a second-grader at a private school in Tarrytown, was No. 545 at the same audition.
Both girls study at Elmsford’s Random Farms Kids’ Theatre, a stone’s throw from the dinner theater. Grace studies voice there; Peyton has played Cinderella in “Cinderella” and a couple of roles in “Shrek.”
In this high-profile assignment, the young actresses are rubbing elbows with Broadway royalty: Westchester’s Audra McDonald plays the Mother Abbess, Laura Benanti (“Gypsy”) plays Baroness Schraeder and Christian Borle (“SMASH”) is Uncle Max Detweiller. Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) plays Capt. Georg von Trapp. (Read an interview with director Rob Ashford here.)
What’s it like to work with Carrie Underwood?
“It’s cool!” blurts out Peyton.
After a little thought, Grace says: “I think it’s cool because not a lot of people get to meet someone as big as Carrie Underwood. So it’s cool to meet her.”
She adds that the singer — whose name is above the title of this production and who has a lot riding on this one-night-only event — sets a professional tone.
“When it’s the end of the day, a lot of people are tired and grouchy, but Carrie’s always bright and she never gets grouchy,” Grace says.
The cameras will add another degree of difficulty to this production, but Grace says: “I just focus on what I’m supposed to do and put the cameras out of my mind.”
The girls happily dish other on-set details.
“Laura Benanti is the funniest,” Grace says. “I love how she does her high note really high.”
“The nuns are really loud,” says Peyton. “I have to cover my ears. They’re like the loudest people ever in the show. And their voices are so pretty. But they’re singing German or something. I can’t understand them.”
“It’s better than a regular show,” Peyton says. “You get free food.”
Note to Fraulein Maria: These von Trapp girls prefer tacos to streudel.
Photos by Peter D. Kramer/The Journal News: Peyton Ella of Irvington, left, and Grace Rundhaug of Danbury, who play Gretl and Marta von Trapp in NBC’s live production of “The Sound of Music” on Dec. 5. Photographed at Elmsford’s Random Farms Kids Theater, where they train.