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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Cottonwood Heights girl travels the world with Broadway Asia’s production of ‘The Sound of Music’

Jun 02, 2023 09:14AM ● By Jolene Croasmun

Penny Hodson was 10 years old when she was cast as one of the Matildas in the Cottonwood Heights 2021 summer musical, “Matilda.” This was just the beginning of what would become only a dream for many young drama hopefuls, but for this remarkable young lady, it was the first of many shows. Just two years later, she is traveling the world with the Broadway Asia’s production of “The Sound of Music.”

“So my mom found the audition in the newspaper and she said she could feel it in her bones,” Penny said. This was the first real play that Penny had ever auditioned for and it was during the pandemic. In-person auditions were not occurring. “I wanted to do a video audition but my mom wanted me to do a Zoom audition. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but it went really well.”

Jin-Xiang Yu, also known as Jx, was the choreographer for the Cottonwood Heights musical, “Matilda” in 2021. “That was Penny’s maiden voyage into musical theatre and she had a great first audition and then we called her back and she blew us away. The way she communicated the songs and expressed what the character was feeling, it just came naturally and there was no question, we wanted her,” Jx said.

“Around dress rehearsals, I noticed she was having some vocal issues with a song and some of the pitch, and I reached out to her mom and got permission to help her. We went through the choreography and Penny felt she could learn a lot of things from me. I wanted her to be excellent, so our teacher-student relationship began,” Jx said. 

“After ‘Matilda,’ we started getting her audition book ready,” Jx continued. “She had no prior musical experience so our time was spent on learning how to read music, singing harmony…. Penny has grit, she does not give up and she was getting roles and had to decide which gigs to take and which to turn down.” 

While Penny travels with the Broadway tour, Jx is available for Zoom vocal and dance lessons or just to support the young actress. Jx added, “I have been waking up early or staying up late to give her a lesson while Penny is out of the country. We have a big sister, little sister relationship.”

“Penny wanted to audition for Hale Center Theatre and the Shakespeare Festival, and then a national show,” said Kristin Hodson, Penny’s mother. The Hale Center Theatre cast Penny in “The Christmas Carol” in December of 2021 and she was cast as Marta Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” at the Shakespeare Festival in October 2022. 

“I just started auditioning more and more. It’s just really fun and with every performance I had, it just got more and more fun,” Penny said.

Then it happened. The traveling Broadway Asia production of “The Sound of Music” went on a nationwide search to fill the role of Marta Von Trapp. They wanted to find a young actor who had recently been cast as Marta. “We got contacted by the New York agent and we had to get a quick passport and then off to the Philippines,” Kristin said. This was that unbelievable break for Penny with a Broadway production.

The Broadway Asia production of “The Sound of Music” finished in the Philippines and is now in Mumbai and will head to China at the end of the summer. Penny’s contract with them goes until 2024.

Penny’s role as Marta is considered a swing which became very popular during the pandemic and they typically cover multiple roles. “The cast is so supportive when a swing goes on,” Kristin said. Penny is also a swing for Brigitta and Louisa in this production of “The Sound of Music.” 

When the call came from Broadway Asia, Penny was working on “Matilda” at the Centerpoint Theatre. She was now in two shows at the same time. “My mind just kind of switches, I focus on ‘The Sound of Music’ and then when I come home I switch back to ‘Matilda,’” Penny said.

There is no surprise that this young lady is an exceptional academic student too. She recently went to state in the science fair and yet Penny said, “Science is not my favorite subject.”

Her school here in Utah is flexible with her schedule and she has some online classes. Kristin said, “There is a private tutor for the kids and they are contracted with the kid’s school so they make sure the child actors in the production are keeping up with their school work.” 

“This is new, exciting and fun. We had to say yes to it if Penny wanted to do it, we needed to give it a shot. We have two other children who need attention too, so my husband and I swap out who travels with Penny in order to spend time with all of our kids,” Kristin said. Kristin is balancing all of this with her own work schedule as the founder and CEO of The Healing Group. 

Penny just turned 12 and will be entering the seventh grade next fall. 

Penny is away from home for long stretches and said, “I really miss Lady (her dog) and the places I like to eat. I miss Presotea and chocolate chip Crave cookies. They are so good and amazing!”

Her face lights up as describes her favorite Presotea. “It’s a tea, you can get milk and cream in it.” Penny’s favorite is a white peach oolong milk tea. She has made friends with all of the employees at Presotea and says, “I want to work there.” λ