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Actress Paula Scrofano

scrofanoFor Jeff-award winning actress Paula Scrofano, the journey to accomplished actress began from childhood; growing up in the Cleveland area, she was surrounded by art, music and the magic of Italian culture — which explains how she learned at least a dozen songs in Italian by her high school years.

The daughter of a Sicilian father (from the town of Augusta) and a Czech-Hungarian mother, the Riverside, Ill. resident stars as Frau Schmidt in “The Sound of Music.” This Chicago-area production of the award-winning Rodgers and Hammerstein musical runs through Jan. 8, 2013 — you read correctly, 2013 — at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

“I’m not sure that a piece as wonderful as ‘The Sound of Music’ needs anything fresh,” Scrofano says. “It requires commitment and dedication to its inspiring story. Keep in mind that although it is inspired by a true story, it is a fictional account. But it is about people who love their country and won’t compromise in their hope to hold on to their heritage.”

To that end, Scrofano has honored her own cultural roots as an artist, and then some. The acting bug bit her at age 14, when she landed her first summer stock theater role in Bay Village, Ohio. “That’s when I started to love it,” she recalls. “I found that I would rather sing as someone else than as myself.”

Northwestern University followed — and thanks to her high school choir director, who was an alumnus, Scrofano captured a large scholarship at the prestigious institution. “I got my Equity card soon after graduation and have been working as a professional in the Union for 37 years,” she says.

Scrofano’s resume includes stints in “Broadway Bound” at Drury Lane Theatre, “The Most Happy Fella” at Ravinia Festival, “The Wizard of Oz” at Chicago Shakespeare, and “Sunday in the Park with George” at Goodman Theatre. While now in a position to rest on her laurels, she hardly sees her career in those terms.

“I hope I have continued to grow as an actress,” Scrofano says. “That’s the best thing about what I do. Each role demands something different. Skills may repeat themselves but the place is always new. The situation is new. The background and back story is new. There’s always much to learn.”

That said, Scrofano hardly lacks for confidence — and why should she, given her track record? “I feel I have nothing to prove to anyone at this age, and consequently, that is very freeing to make each project my own to challenge myself and just serve the piece as the writer intended,” she says. “I hope I do it with honesty and integrity.”

Lunch and dinner theater packages for “The Sound of Music,” starring Paula Scrofano, range from $49.75 to $68. Student tickets start at $20, and senior citizen tickets at $29 for matinees ($43.75 for matinee luncheons). For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630-530-0111, TicketMaster at 800-745-3000, or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com.

About Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo is award-winning journalist who spent 20 years reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune. He began writing for Fra Noi in 2007, and claims maternal and paternal southern Italian lineage. The monthly Lou&A columnist and a music reviewer/writer, his work has appeared in Reuters, Aol, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and news outlets around the world. In 1993, he was a Pulitzer Prize team-reporting finalist for his contributions to the Tribune’s “Killing Our Children” series. He resides in Chicago with his wife of 21 years, a hospital chaplain, and their teenage son and daughter.