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The Sound of Music (1965)

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Article 3

 The Stalls are Alive: What's the world coming to when A Singalong Sound of Music becomes the feel-good hit of the year

by Des Partridge

Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia), July 7, 2001 pg. M12

THE SOUND of Music? The Sound of Mucus? The Sound of Money?

Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical based on the story of the Von Trapp family singers is one of those love-it-or-hate-it moviedom success stories.

Derided by most critics for its overwhelming sentimentality and sweetness, the film made by 20th Century Fox in 1964 with the then untested movie talent Julie Andrews went on to win Academy Awards for Best Film, Director (Robert Wise), and music scoring.

Mary Poppins, which won Andrews an Oscar, hadn't been released when she began work for Fox on The Sound of Music.

The Todd-AO spectacle became the highest-grossing film of the decade, has enjoyed popularity ever since when fading prints have been dusted off for occasional cinema revivals, and has always managed respectable ratings when it's been shown on television.

Now, The Sound of Music is back, in a way Rodgers and Hammerstein could never have dreamt. It's not so much The Sound of Music the movie, but The Sound of Music meets Rocky Horror Picture Show, a sing-along dress-up event that is neither movie nor concert but total entertainment, including a showbag and the chance to dress up and express yourself.

The Sing-a-Long-A Sound of Music was created for London's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival two years ago.

Someone (who'd seen members of an Inverness audience singing along to the songs of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers from songsheets) had the novel idea of using a computer to project the words of the evergreen Rodgers and Hammerstein movie on to the screen while the film unrolled in an otherwise conventional way.

One screening was planned for the festival, and the 450 tickets sold out within a day, with the themed fancy dress competition a fascinating contest won by a genuine nun.

Four months later the seasoned producer David Johnson (who brought us Trainspotting and the play Shopping and F---ing) organised a week of repeat sing-along screenings at London's Prince Charles Cinema in the heart of the city's theatre district -- and the show has been running ever since.

As well as London, it has toured to Ireland, Canada, and productions are being planned for the Netherlands and Denmark.

Melbourne-based theatrical producer Tim Woods, who travels to Britain each year looking for new shows, saw the movie event at the Prince Charles, and knew he had to get the rights for Australia.

Brisbane is the next city to share the sensation, following on the success of screenings in Sydney, launched at this year's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Audiences have surprised Woods with their innovative costumes -- lots of nuns, brown paper packages tied up with string, groups wearing T-shirts to identify them as Do, Re, Mi, lots of men in lederhosen.

Some sessions have seen raindrops on roses, and couples dressed as bread and jam.

Costumes themed to the movie are limited only by anyone's imagination.

"Someone came as a nun carrying a distributor cap and leads. I had to think about that one," says Woods.

But he says there was total shock when at the movie's famous wedding scene when Maria and Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) exchange vows a gay couple, costumed identically with the screen characters, did a perfectly timed walk down the aisle of Sydney's State Theatre.

"A TV current affairs show was filming, so we had the audience couple acting out the movie in the theatre while it was also playing in synch on the screen. They even knelt on the stage as Maria and Von Trapp take their vows. It was something surreal, like being in a Woody Allen movie."

While the film itself runs for 173 minutes, audiences are treated to a warm-up before each screening with a surprise host who explains how the items in the showbags are used.

Audience members receive the bags containing a foam rubber nun, curtain material (hint, hint -- remember those costumes Maria makes for the children), a sprig of plastic eidelweiss, a party-popper to be exploded when the wedding is over, and some cough lollies.

The costume competition, generally a riot, is judged, and then, the sing-a-long begins as the helicopter zooms over the Austrian Alps and Julie Andrews's crystal-clear soprano is heard trilling, "The hills are alive . . . "

"We've all done The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Blues Brother thing, but this takes audience participation to another level," says Woods (who is also responsible for the theatre production The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) playing at the Twelfth Night Compex from July 17).

Altogether now, "When you know the notes to sing . . . "

2001 Courier Mail

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