The Sound of Music

Theaters this week are celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music.

Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music

The film version, starring a then unknown Julie Andrews and primarily stage performer Christopher Plummer, of the musical first hit theaters in 1965.

The stage version first premiered six years earlier in 1959, with Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, in the title roles.

Three years before the story hit the stage, in 1956, stage director Vincent J. Donehue viewed the German film, Die Trapp Familie {The Trapp Family}, and believed this story would be a wonderful vehicle for his friend, Mary Martin.  The film was based on the 1949 book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp.

The project was originally envisioned as a non-musical play, but producers soon believed the project should feature new songs. The book {or story} was written by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.  Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, the successful musical theater team, quickly became involved. The team had already successfully produced the musicals Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and The King and I.

The Sound of Music was developed for Broadway star, Mary Martin
The Sound of Music was developed for Broadway star, Mary Martin

Rodgers and Hammerstein provided the music for the story.  Many of their songs have become musical standards, such as My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, Climb Ev’ry Mountain and the title song, The Sound of Music.  This was the last musical the famous duo wrote together, before the death of composer Oscar Hammerstein.

Changes were made to the true story, most notably the names and ages of the children.

The show premiered at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959.  The show would go on to run 1,443 performances before closing in 1963.  The production won five Tony awards at the 1960 Tony Awards.

The film was directed by Robert Wise.  The cast spend over three months in Austria on principle filming.  The remainder of the film bookended principle filming in Austria, and took place on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot in Los Angeles.

The film version was released on March 2 1965 in the United States.  The film was a major commercial success, although it received a wide mixture of critical reviews.  The film was so popular that it broke numerous box office

The story was based on the book about her family by Maria von Trapp
The story was based on the book about her family by Maria von Trapp

records, including surpassing Gone with the Wind as the highest grossing film of all time.

The film received numerous awards, including 5 Oscars, among them the Academy award for Best Director and Best Picture.  In 1998 AFI {American Film Institute} listed The Sound of Music as the fourth greatest movie musical and 55th greatest film of all time.   The Library of Congress found the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected the film for the National Film Registry in 2001.

The film has become a staple on TV, especially around Christmas and Easter.  Audiences continue to crave reunions with the cast of the film over the years, on numerous talk shows, including the last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The film is also a cult classic, with fans dressing up as various characters, to attend sing-a-longs of the hit musical.

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the music for The Sound of Music
Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the music for The Sound of Music

Several revivals have been staged of The Sound of Music over the years. The story is well known and loved throughout the world and in numerous languages.  The musical is also very popular with high schools and local theater groups to stage.

The undeniable truth is that while the story is not historically accurate, somehow it has touched the hearts and a chord with the viewing public around the world.  Fifty years after the film version premiered, the story is still a treasure that audiences long to see again.

Fans can’t seem to get enough of The Sound of MusicThe City of Salzburg has embraced the film with The Sound of Music tour.  Charmian Carr, who played Liesl, has released two books, “Forever, Liesl”, and “Letters to Liesl.” A companion book, The Sound of Music family scrap book, to the movie and a scrapbook, by the children in the cast,  have also been released.

In 2013, NBC presented a live version of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood.

In honor of 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music we will spend the next two months looking at various aspects of those involved with the musical from the real story that inspired the story, to the actresses in the title role to the composers who introduced the world to such hit songs.

 

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