Apologies for making the most obvious of opening jokes, but the hills are alive with the sound of Encore. This week, we’re traveling to the heart of Europe to spend our days learning scales with our favorite Austrian nun-turned-babysitter. Oh, and running away from Nazis. Yeah. That, too. Yikes.
I’m not going to lie; this week is going to be a bit difficult. The Disney connections to the purely stage production are next to impossible, so we have to take a few liberties this week. I hope you’ll allow the tomfoolery that’s to come. I have confidence this will all work out!
- Episode 3: The Sound of Music
- Book: Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse
- Music & Lyrics: Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, respectively
- Based on: The 1956 film Die Trapp-Familie and Maria Von Trapp’s autobiography The Story of the Trapp Family Singers
- Broadway Premiere: November 16, 1959 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
- But, like, any Tony Awards?: 9 Nominations, 5 Wins, including BEST MUSICAL (a tie with Fiorello!)
- Best Song, as decided by me alone: “No Way to Stop It,” specifically from The Sound of Music Live
The show was an idea by director Vincent J. Donehue as a starring vehicle for Mary Martin, acclaimed Broadway actress likely most known for her iconic performance as Peter Pan. Donehue quickly got the producing team of Hayward and Halliday on board for a non-musical play, with Lindsay & Crouse writing the book. After asking Rodgers & Hammerstein to write one or two songs for the production (they were the Von Trapp Family SINGERS, after all), the team all came to the decision that allowing it to be a full-fledged musical was the right decision for the piece.
The show had two out-of-town tryouts, in New Haven, CT and Boston, MA, before opening on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre at the end of 1959. (The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre later became the home to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.) The critics and audiences loved the show and it went onto win Best Musical at the Tony Awards in a rare tie. The show ran just about 3 years at the Lunt-Fontanne before moving to the Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1962, closing in 1963 after 1443 performances, a relatively short run-time for such an iconic musical.
A quick aside about the Mark Hellinger Theatre; In the 1980s, Broadway was hurting. Theaters laid empty, the business wasn’t as productive and profitable as it used to be for a multitude of reasons. For this reason, many theater owners were struggling with empty houses. The Nederlander organization leased the Mark Hellinger to the Times Square Church on a 5-year lease, starting in 1989, during this downturn. In 1991, the Nederlanders bit-the-bullet and sold the theater to them for a seemingly measly $17 million. The theater, home to the original production of My Fair Lady, is now a church. Disney, among others, has tried to purchase the coveted real estate, but with no luck. Jennifer Tepper has a wonderful interesting TED talk on how Broadway is a real estate game and the Mark Hellinger just sitting there is pretty gross. I will talk about the Mark Hellinger Theatre for the rest of my days until it returned to a Broadway house and THAT is THAT on THAT.
Okay, back to The Sound of Music. The biggest Disney connections don’t come into play until The Sound of Music makes it to the big screen in 1965.
Now, I’m not sure if most people are aware, but Disney recently purchased 20th Century Fox. It, weirdly, didn’t get a lot of attention, so many people have kind of forgotten all about it. (I can hear you rolling your eyes from here. Simmer down.) With this purchase in mind, The Sound of Music is now owned by Disney. The film, that is. If you have happened to be doing a deep dive through Disney+’s catalog, you’ll see that the film is streaming 24/7 on the platform. This is fun simply for the Julie Andrews iconography of it all.
Julie Andrews’ first film role ever was Mary Poppins. Yes, ever. She went straight from performing on Broadway in Camelot to starring as the world’s most iconic nanny. She went onto win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her next film was The Americanization of Emily, and then followed that up with The Sound of Music. Not only were the films all shot almost back-to-back-to-back, but Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music came out only a year apart from each other. This led to back-to-back Lead Actress Oscar nominations. Two of the most iconic performances in history were performed by Julie Andrews in two years. (I’m currently yelling “Can you believe?!” to various people about the topic at this very moment.)
Some other quick hits of Disney connections:
-Julie Andrews went onto star in the greatest film ever produced, Disney’s The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. That is a fact, not an opinion.
-Christopher Plummer, Captain Von Trapp himself, has starred in two Disney films since his days wrangling his children. He was John Adams Gates in National Treasure and voiced Charles Muntz in Up.
–The Sound of Music has, oddly, only seen one Broadway revival since closing in 1963. Nominated for a single Tony in 1998, for Best Revival of a Musical, it starred Rebecca Luker as Maria. In one of those delightful full-circle moments, Rebecca Luker later went on to star as Mrs. Banks in the original Broadway cast of Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews’ power is strong.
-Irwin Kostal was the orchestrator and conductor for the film’s soundtrack, for which he won an Oscar for Best Score. The year prior, he scored Mary Poppins. In 1982, he was the conductor for the digital re-recording of the music for Fantasia. Kostal, underrated Disney icon!
*Be sure to check out the hyperlinks throughout the article and future pieces in this series for clips from the show, random musical theater references, and canonical items from my life that deserve to be shared amongst the masses*