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(Best sung to “My Favorite Things”)
Austria’s hills hold a thrill for Maria;
Her fellow nuns simply have no idea
Just how to manage this angel of stress,
So she’s sent off as a new governess.
The children of Captain von Trapp, lucky seven,
Are quite a handful and no seventh heaven.
Though Captain formally keeps them in line,
Governesses find them less than benign.
Fraulein Maria is warm and kindhearted,
And soon her musical love is imparted.
Captain’s away so the children will play,
Learning to sing in the happiest way.
When the day ends,
Captain is mad,
But the children sing.
Reminded of music, he’s suddenly glad,
And soon they have him crooning.
Baroness Schraeder, whom Captain is dating,
Causes Maria to leave just by stating
That he’s in love with Maria, a fact
That brings her back in the next-to-last act.
After Maria and Captain are married,
Problems arise from the views he has carried.
Told by the Nazis that he’s to report,
Captain realizes that their time is short.
Leaving the country to keep from conforming,
They buy some time by that evening performing.
As they escape to the convent nearby,
Nazis close in to prevent their goodbye.
To the mountains,
The von Trapps flee
Into Switzerland.
Barely escaping, the family now free
Continue through vistas grand.

The musical genre is one of my favorites, presumably because I enjoy music itself so much. I love how stories can be told succinctly through song, and the music of whatever I watch typically gets stuck in my head for some time afterward. The most recent favorite I found is a 2009 musical of The Count of Monte Cristo (hasn’t been filmed yet); before that, it was Frozen; before that, the discovery of Les Miserables. Yet as fun as it is to unearth exceptional new musicals, I always return to the greatest of them all: The Sound of Music.

After her Oscar-winning performance as Mary Poppins the previous year, Julie Andrews outdid herself as beloved nun-turned-governess-turned-wife Maria. She has both the voice and the charisma to make Maria genuinely endearing even while everyone else grouses about her. I particularly liked how the life of a nun was not derided as less worthy than married life but simply not for her, a fact that the Mother Superior recognized before Maria. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Christopher Plummer found his most famous role as Captain Georg von Trapp, the icy father who just needs a headache of a governess to reawaken his love of music and his own children.

I will admit that I find many of Hollywood’s Golden Age musicals rather boring, particularly straight dramatic adaptations like West Side Story, but The Sound of Music sidesteps that concern with its classic Rodgers and Hammerstein soundtrack, peppered with much humor and delightful character moments. Whenever it threatens to drag, a well-spaced musical number livens things up, or we get a laugh from the endearingly candid Maria or the “charming sponge” Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn). By the end, “fuzzy camera” romance gives way to a nail-biting thriller finale that shouldn’t leave anyone bored.

Along the way are stunning mountain vistas and some of the finest show tunes this side of Salzburg. Nowhere are these so well-combined as in “Do-Re-Mi,” a song about singing that brims with joie de vivre and ends on an unrivalled high note that always gives my VC goosebumps. The rest of the songs are equally marvelous, with not a dud in the bunch. “My Favorite Things” is always a joy, and the puppeteered “The Lonely Goatherd” is possibly the most exuberant and fun musical number that Hollywood ever offered. Even the slower songs range from intimate to inspirational and are the kind of hummable music that effortlessly ingrains itself into the listener’s ears and heart.

My family has always enjoyed The Sound of Music. My mom was Gretl’s age when it came out, and Maria’s wedding dress and veil stuck in her mind to influence her own wedding train. She even enjoyed the recent live television version with Carrie Underwood, a production that couldn’t compare with the original in any way but was a respectable effort nonetheless. Even if the film is not historically accurate about the real von Trapp family and thus none too popular in Austria, The Sound of Music is my favorite musical and Julie Andrews’ finest hour, a feast for the ears from start to finish.

Best lines: (Captain von Trapp) “It’s the dress. You’ll have to put on another one before you meet the children.”   (Maria) “But I don’t have another one. When we entered the abbey, our worldly clothes were given to the poor.”   (Captain) “What about this one?”   (Maria) “The poor didn’t want this one.”

(“Uncle” Max) “I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I’m with them.”

Rank: 60 out of 60

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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