It's the Sound of the Von Trapps
It's quite strange when you think that musicals are not as popular as they once were yet "The Sound of Music" still remains a favourite and still becomes part of growing up for one new generation after another. I watched it for the first time in the late 70s when I was about 8 and I've probably watched it quite a few times since, partly because like certain movies it appears on TV at least once a year. Of course we groan when "The Sound of Music" appears on the TV schedule yet again and vow not to watch it but there are those memories, those songs and the drama than means if you catch a split second whilst channel hopping you inevitably end up watching for a few minutes. There is a simple reason why "The Sound of Music" is still so popular and that is because it is entertaining and enjoyable.
Maria (Julie Andrews - Mary Poppins) wants to be a nun but she is failing miserably at keeping to the rules of the convant, so much so that she finds herself being sent to work for Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer - The Lake House) who requires a governess to handle his 7 children. Initially it seems like Maria won't last at Von Trapp's home, disagreeing with the strict way he is bringing up the children and falling foul of various pranks that the children play on her. But she manages to last and not only do the children warm to her but so does Captain Von Trapp who despite seeing The Baroness (Eleanor Parker) falls in love with Maria as she reintroduces fun and music into the home. But with Austria being annexed into the Third Reich it is troubled times from Captain Von Trapp who is expected to take command of a submarine.
Whilst "The Sound of Music" originates from "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" by Maria von Trapp via a Broadway musical the story which is represented in the movie is not as close to the truth as many would imagine. Yes there was a Von Trapp family who were singers, and yes Maria was employed to be a governess all but initially to one child but most of the movie is made up. But whilst made up it is a pleasant story taking us from Maria's first, less than salubrious encounter with Captain Von Trapp and his mischievous children through to their escape from Austria after it is annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss.
Along the way we have the sub stories such as Maria constantly annoying Captain Von Tramp as she disagrees with his methods of bringing up children, the reintroduction of music into the Von Trapp home and of course Maria hiding her emotions towards Captain Von Trapp having fallen for him. To be honest for a movie which last almost 3 hours there isn't really a big story or at least one which is complex but it is a nice story which goes from fun to romantic to dramatic as the Von Trapp's try to escape from Austria.
But despite this seemingly simple storyline "The Sound of Music" never feels like its dull or dragging it's feet with unnecessary padding. And the reason why is that it is filled with fun and great musical scenes such as "My Favorite Things", "Do-Re-Mi" and my personal favourite the touching "Edelweiss". There is such a wonderful energy to all of the scenes and whilst it may seem a little cheesy in places watching Maria running up the hill side singing "The Sound of Music" or Liesl and Rolfe singing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" in the pagoda it is enjoyable. And being enjoyable makes it memorable as does being fun such as the wonderful puppet show that Maria and the children put on where they sing "The Lonely Goatherd". As such whilst you remember the simple story to "The Sound of Music" you remember the musical element so much more.
And whilst the lyrics and music make these musical scenes good it is the performances which make them stand out. Each of the young actors who played the Von Trapp children did so perfectly delivering cute but also making them characters and Charmian Carr as Liesl really stands out with a grace and loveliness about her performance which steals the show from other actors. And then there is Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp who delivers the authoritarian aspect wonderfully, making him harsh but almost comically harsh and then beautifully melting into this kindly man when Maria and the children reintroduce music into his life. It is his emotional and simplistic rendition of "Edelweiss" as he plays the guitar which remains to this day one of my favourite scenes in the musical purely for it being so beautiful and simple even if Plummer was dubbed.
But of course "The Sound of Music" belongs to Julie Andrews who delivers every aspect of her character Maria. From the opening scenes where she is late back to the convent, her initial less than salubrious introduction to Captain Von Trapp through to the way she deals with her hidden feelings towards him, it is simply perfect. And if it wasn't enough that Julie Andrews acted the part so well she also delivers every musical scene perfectly whether it is the re-assuring fun of "My Favorite Things" or the emotion in "So Long, Farewell".
What this all boils down to is that "The Sound of Music" is still a great family musical and never fails to entertain. From the simple storyline, the wonderful songs through to the perfect performances it works and never once becomes dull despite being almost 3 hours long. It may cause groans when it crops up on the TV schedule yet again but it deserves being shown so often because they don't make movies or musicals like this anymore.