SOUND OFF Special Edition: Top 10 Favorite Things About THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC is one of the most oft-produced and enduring musicals of all time and this week has welcomed both spectacular news and saddening news regarding the past, present and future of the beloved family-friendly musical. Iconic original leading man Theodore Bikel passed away at the age of 91 earlier this week, forever closing the book on the first man to ever sing "Edelweiss", one of the score's most beloved gems, not to mention the man who portrayed Captain Von Trapp in the original Broadway production. Yet, on the horizon looms a brand new national tour of the tuner set to star a brand new discovery named Kerstin Anderson in the role of Maria Von Trapp alongside a fresh-faced cast including Ben Davis, Ashley Brown, Merwin Foard, Dan Tracy and more, all under the direction of Jack O'Brien. Considering the legendary legacy of the beloved title, now is an ideal time to list ten of my personally chosen absolute favorite things pertaining to the rich history of the musical on stages and screens both large and small since its debut on Broadway way back in 1959, especially with so much of this week's news pertaining to it.
1. The film. It is indisputable that the big screen edition of THE SOUND OF MUSIC directed by Robert Wise is incredibly iconic and adored around the world, but the vivacity and freshness that the film emanates more than 50 years after its premiere speaks well to the effervescence imbued in the entire enterprise by the master director as well as all parties involved. It is simply sublime.
2. Julie Andrews. Just as much as THE SOUND OF MUSIC on the big screen is enjoyed by generation after generation for its multiple appreciable attributes, so, too, does the leading lady make the film an absolute and utter joy to revisit time and time again. Has someone ever been so lovely and easy to love onscreen as Julie Andrews is? Doubtful, particularly in this part.
3. Mary Martin. As much as Julie Andrews will forever be remembered for the role of Maria Von Trapp, it is undeniable that original Broadway star Mary Martin is rightly regarded as definitive in her own way as the nun who becomes a governess and introduces the power of music to a litter of motherless children of all ages. She is, was and always will be sheer and utter Broadway royalty.
4. Rodgers & Hammerstein. The final score composed for stage or screen by the enormously talented twosome, THE SOUND OF MUSIC boasts perhaps the most earworm-packed songstack of any musical in the enviable canon of the Golden Age masters - which, it itself, is really saying something significant. With familiar tunes ranging from "Do-Re-Mi" to "My Favorite Things" to "Edelweiss" and beyond, this is as melody-rich and lyrically adorable as musicals get, now or then.
5. The story. Based on an actual true story of a woman named Maria Rainer and her position as the governess to the children of an Austrian naval captain, THE SOUND OF MUSIC presents one of the most compelling and heartwarming stories of any musical ever penned. With ample opportunities for young performers to shine as well as multiple complex characters supplied to the adults in the cast, it is a marvel of a well-crafted show and enough credit cannot be given to the team behind the musical in liberally re-adjusting and re-writing the actual origin story in order to make it pop onstage - and, also, onscreen.
6. The book. Not many musicals can boast that one of their prime attributes is the dialogue scenes, yet the smart, sharp, elegant and eminently effective work by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse in shaping the story and structuring the evening to peak at several points in an intriguing, surprising and attention-grabbing manner - not to mention the pointed political commentary provided regarding the rise of the Nazi party during the goings-on that we witness throughout - makes for a surefire plug-worthy element in assessing the strongest and most memorable touchstones of the show's long history - one that most musicals would envy.
7. The thesis. Not only does THE SOUND OF MUSIC tell an ultimately joyous and considerably complex story of family, war, religion, relationships and love, but also presents one of the most powerful and effective messages of any musical: music lifts us up and enriches everything we do in life if we allow it in to do so. As in the unforgettable "Edelweiss", near the end of the show, even the buttoned-up and conservative captain falls under the spell of the sweetest of sounds - and falls head over heels in love with the woman who sings it so captivatingly, too.
8. Timelessness. As Lady Gaga proved on this year's Oscar telecast with her jaw-dropping tribute to the property, THE SOUND OF MUSIC is without peer insofar as its vast applicability to virtually any and all generation on Planet Earth. There is something for everybody to love and many moments that take one's breath away time and time again in viewing it - indeed, it is that rare entertainment for all of us, any of us and also perfectly apt for future generations. A time capsule must-have if we were to ever come up with a list of the musicals most worth remembering for all of time and beyond, no doubt.
9. Adaptability. As previously discussed, THE SOUND OF MUSIC arguably works even better on the big screen than it does onstage - where it sparkles, as well - and the massively successful small-screen edition presented in 2013 on NBC as THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE! starring none other than country superstar Carrie Underwood made a solid case for the show's worthy presence as a piece worth reviving in many different mediums. Who knows, could a 3D version be next?! After all, a sing-a-long version already does - and continues to pack them in in showings around the country and world.
10. The captain. Watching the transformation of a cold and removed man of the world slowly learn to love the woman who befriends his own children and guides them to happiness and musical transcendence is a case study in dynamic character arcs. Whether portrayed by Broadway original Theodore Bikel, onscreen by Christopher Plummer or on TV by Stephen Moyer, each and every Captain Von Trapp brings an idiosyncratic twist to the journey of the character - a hallmark of solid storytelling, which THE SOUND OF MUSIC is positively overflowing with, now and always.
Given all these prime points of analysis and discussion, surely there are even more glories to unearth, consider and recount as far as THE SOUND OF MUSIC is concerned. What makes it work so very well in your estimation? As the title of this column states, sound off below and let us know!
Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox, NBC, ABC, etc.