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HELLO BROADWAY FANS! Just another morning of waking up to our favorite show tunes as we continue to get closer to Broadway’s biggest night of the year. The 74th Annual Tony Awards is only 45 DAYS AWAY!!!. Your friendly neighborhood guides at New York Broadway Tours are continuing to get us hyped plus celebrating the return of Live Theatre with our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready for more Broadway favorites?!!!
At # 45 on our countdown, we have an iconic musical that is very special to the world. You may consider it as one of our FAVORITE THINGS. We are about to take you to Austria in the year of 1938 at the time of the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany (a.k.a. The Anschluss). It mainly centers on a young woman who is sent to the home of a widowed and retired naval officer becoming the governess to his seven children After bringing love and music into family’s lives, she marries the officer, gets together with the children, and helps them finds a way to survive the loss of their homeland. Yup, THE HILLS ARE ALIVE forever and for always with The Sound Of Music. The musical features a renowned score by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II (marking it the last together before his death) and a book by Howard Lindsay and Robert Crouse. It’s based on the real life 1949 memoir by the real Maria Von Trapp entitled THE STORY OF THE TRAPP FAMILY SINGERS.
From the 1998 telecast, the recently late Rebecca Luker as “Maria Von Trapp”, Michael Siberry as Captain von Trapp, Patti Cohenhour as “Mother Abyss”, and the cast of that recent Broadway revival perform a medley of 3 of the musical’s notable Rodgers & Hammerstein’s anthems including CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN, DO-RE-MI, and the titular song itself THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
The Sound of Music was first conceived in 1956. After watching a German film about the life of the Von Trapp Family Singers, stage director Vincent J. Donehue envisioned it as a musical written for Broadway star Mary Martin. Producers Leland Hayward and Richard Halliday (Martin’s husband) agreed. Originally, it was developed as a straight play written by the playwriting team of Howard Lindsay and Robert Crouse. It would include music from the real Von Trapp family’s singing repertoire plus adding 2 original songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (who already were huge with many of their hits including OKLAHOMA!, Carousel, The King and I, and South Pacific). However, the whole team agreed in the end that the story should be a full-scale original musical. From there, the work began. Rodgers & Hammerstein along with Lindsay and Crouse started researching more about the era of the story. Facts on the Von Trapp’s family history was altered including the musical’s climactic dramatic ending where they all walk up the Austrian mountains to Switzerland on foot.
The show had its world premiere out-of-town tryout in October 1959 in New Haven, CT. After a brief 8 performance engagement, it then made its way to Boston, MA the following month.
Finally in November 1959, THE SOUND OF MUSIC made its Broadway debut at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre before later transferring to the Mark Hellinger Theatre for 5 previews and 1,143 performances. It earned critical acclaim and rave reviews. Under the direction of Vincent J. Donehue, the cast was led by….
Mary Martin (later Martha Wright, Jeannie Carson, and Nancy Dussault) as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Theofore Bikel (later Donald Scott) as “Captain George von Trapp”,
Patricia Neway (later Lizabeth Pritchett and Elizabeth Howell) as “Mother Abyss”,
Marion Marlowe (later Lois Hunt) as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Kurt Kasznar as “Max Detweiler”,
Brian Davies as “Rolf Gruber”,
Lauri Peters as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
The original production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC was nominated for 9 Tony Awards in 1960. It took home 5 including BEST MUSICAL and BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Mary Martin).
THE SOUND OF MUSIC would also be a very bittersweet show especially for the legacy of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Just 9 months after the show opened on Broadway, Oscar Hammerstein II tragically passed away of Stomach Cancer at his home in Doylestown, PA. He was just 65 years old. The very last song he ever wrote with Richard Rodgers was the musical’s haunting anthem EDELWEISS during rehearsals.
With the success of the original production, THE SOUND OF MUSIC went on to CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN around the world. The show debuted overseas in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre where it beat Broadway, running the longest for 2, 385 performances. It would later be revived there TWICE both in 1981 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and then recently in 2006 at The London Palladium (produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and included a reality show to help find a newcomer for the role of “Maria”).
THE SOUND OF MUSIC was last revived here on Broadway in 1998. It played the Martin Beck Theatre (now the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) for 38 previews and 533 regular performances. Under the direction of Susan H. Schulman, the cast was led by….
The late Rebecca Luker (later Laura Benanti) as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Michael Siberry (later Richard Chamberlain and Dennis Parlato) as “Captain Georg von Trapp”,
Patti Cohenhour (later Jeanne Lehmann) as “Mother Abyss”,
Jan Maxwell (later Kay McClelland) as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Fred Applegate (later Patrick Quinn and Lenny Wolpe) as “Max Detweiler”,
Dashiell Eaves (later Ben Schaeffer) as “Rolf Gruber”,
Sara Zelle as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
That recent 1998 revival was nominated for only 1 Tony Award that year for BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL. However, it lost the category.
Today, THE SOUND OF MUSIC continues to be performed all around the world. It has been done in schools, community, regional theaters, several touring productions around the world, and even various concert productions.
One of the show’s notable concert versions happened in the Big Apple back in 2012. It was held as a one night only production at New York’s famed Carnegie Halll. Under the direction of Gary Griffin, the cast was led by….
Laura Osnes as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Tony Goldwyn as “Captain Georg von Trapp”,
Stephanie Blythe as “Mother Abyss”,
Brooke Shields as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Patrick Page as “Max Detweiler”,
Nick Spangler as “Rolf Gruber”,
Mary Michael Patterson as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
Along with its success on stage, THE SOUND OF MUSIC was captured 3 TIMES on film. The first version is the legendary original movie that we all know in love from 20th Century Studios released in 1965. Costing $1.25 million for the licensing to produce the film, it went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time surpassing 1939’s GONE WITH THE WIND breaking records in 90 different countries. The movie itself was known for filming BOTH in Los Angeles, CA and on location in Salzburg, Austria itself. Under the direction of Robert Wise, the cast legendary starred….
Julie Andrews as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Christopher Plummer (with Bill Lee’s singing voice) as “Captain Georg von Trapp”,
Peggy Wood as “Mother Abyss”,
Eleanor Parker as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Richard Haydyn as “Max Detweiler”,
Daniel Truhitte as “Rolf Gruber”,
Charmian Carr as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
The film went on to win various Awards including 2 Golden Globes and 5 Oscars….taking home the top prize for BEST PICTURE.
Today the original movie is still popular in households. It’s shown on Television TWICE a year including on ABC and Freeform both a week before Christmas and Easter.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC’s previous times on screen happened TWICE as successful live televised productions. This was a huge stomping ground as TV was starting to bring back the old holiday tradition from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s of doing live televised productions of classic Broadway musicals.
The first LIVE TV version of the musical happened here in the States back in 2012 on NBC. Filmed live on soundstage in Long Island, NY, directed by Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy Miller plus produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, it featured an all-star cast of stage, screen, and music favorites plus newcomers. The cast was led by….
Carrie Underwood as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Stephen Moyer as “Captain Georg von Trapp”,
Audra McDonald as “Mother Abyss”,
Laura Benanti (alumni of the 1998 revival) as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Christian Borle as “Max Detweiler”,
Michael Campayano as “Rolf Gruber”,
Ariane Reinhart as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
At first when this NBC Live production was announced, there was some backlash and controversy over the casting of Carrie Underwood as “Maria”. Mainly known from American Idol and being one of the most successful country singers, a lot of people (including still alive members of the original Von Trapp family believed) she didn’t have that Musical Theater training taking on an iconic role. However with advice from Julie Andrews, Underwood gave it her all wowing viewers with her performance. Reviews on the production were mixed.
NBC’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE was seen by 18.62 million viewers during that holiday season. It also went on to be nominated for several Emmy Awards in 2013 taking home 1 for OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL DIRECTION, CAMERAWORK, VIDEO CONTROL FOR A MINI SERIES, MOVIE OR SPECIAL.
3 years later, the UK did their own live televised version of the musical. This version was aired on the British channel ITV in December of 2015. Filmed live on a soundstage in London and directed by Coky Giedroyc and Richard Valentine, this cast was led by…
Kara Tointon as “Maria Rainer Von Trapp”,
Julian Ovendon as “Captain Georg von Trapp”,
Maria Friedman as “Mother Abyss”,
Katherine Kelly as “Elsa Schraeder”,
Alexander Armstrong as “Max Detweiler”,
Jon Tracy as “Rolf Gruber”,
Evelyn Hoskins as “Liesl Von Trapp”,
And more.
This version was in the UK with 3.82 million viewers. In addition, this UK version of THE SOUND OF MUSIC would eventually be seen here in the US on PBS as part of its Award winning Great Performances series.
The spirit and legacy of THE SOUND OF MUSIC still lives on!!
Isn’t this musical so timeless?!!

52nd TONY AWARDS THE SOUND OF MUSIC – YouTube

Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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