My Favorite Sings
The hills were alive with The Sound of Music in 1965. Since 1999 the halls have been alive with the sound of Sing-a-Long Sound of Music. The final musical collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (Oklahoma, South Pacific) began its life on Broadway in 1959 and starred Mary Martin in the lead role of Maria, the would-be-nun-turned-governess who brightens the dreary lives of the von Trapp children and their strict father. Six years after the show's stage debut, the entertaining feature-film version ensured star status for Julie Andrews and its young cast. The yearly TV replay of the movie, with its light, easy melodies, gorgeous Austrian scenery, and endearing child actors, has ensured its immortality.
The pop culture monster that is The Sound of Music continues to stalk the international psyche, now morphing into interactive theatrical experience, the aforementioned Sing-a-Long. Hatched in the mind of a savvy producer after he visited an old-folks home and saw the senior citizens bursting into song while they watched videos of classic musicals, the spectacle got its start two years ago as a charity fundraiser at the Charles Theatre in London. The wild success led to a three-show-a-week gig and spawned worldwide spinoffs, which have filled seats in several cities including New York, San Francisco, and in Miami beginning this Wednesday. Why see a movie you could recite backward and forward in your sleep? It's a chance to lace up the lederhosen or wear a wimple, wave props, boo and hiss at appropriate moments, and sing off key -- things you'd never dare do at home.
Appearing at the very first show and popping up at subsequent openings: Charmian Carr, better known as Liesl, the eldest of the von Trapp celluloid siblings, who crooned the memorable ode to adolescent ingenuousness "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." A show-biz novice, the then-21-year-old Carr was hired for the role sans acting experience, citing "the $500 a week they paid me" and a strong desire to visit Europe as her chief motivations for taking the job. According to Carr, the real von Trapp family (who tamely escaped Austria by train in 1938 and ultimately settled in Stowe, Vermont) was less than thrilled about the fictionalization of their story. That's Hollywood. But even the von Trapps got over it eventually and accepted the film. "It's an institution now, and bigger than any of us," the actress notes.
After S.O.M. Carr performed in only one other movie (a TV musical called Evening Primrose) and then retreated to domesticity as a wife and mother. In the Seventies she appeared in TV commercials and worked as a decorator to the stars. A few years ago her life came full circle when she wrote two books about her S.O.M. experiences and hopped on the Sing-a-Long bandwagon -- an apt move considering she's been plugging the film for nearly 36 years. Not that it bothers her. "I just can't picture myself doing this at 90," she says, "but I might be!"
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