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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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