The Sing-Along Sound of Music

Ziegfeld Theatre – September 2000

Reviewed by John Kenrick

Scene from The Sound of MusicJulie Andrews ("Hurray!"), Christopher Plummer ("He's dreamy!"), Eleanor Parker ("Hiss!") and the children ("Awww!") in The Sound of Music.

That's right, folks – the most popular musical film of all time with subtitles during the songs. After packing them in for more than a year in Great Britain, this Rocky Horror-style romp with Maria and the kids has finally resolved some rights disputes and made it to New York.

I couldn't make the opening, which friends assured me was a riot. The weeknight I attended, I learned to my regret that this event can be all too riotous. British audiences may have a better sense of what it takes to have fun at such an event – Americans are another story.

Most of the crowd at this screening was in their 20's and 30's. Why is it that whenever heterosexuals in that age range gather in a public place, they automatically behave as if they are in a sports bar? Its one thing to get rowdy at a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show – this was a 7:30 showing, with children present. Too many people who had consumed too many cocktails kept shouting pointlessly obscene suggestions to the screen, with women actually making the men seem tame. It was pathetic to have such idiots ruin everyone else's good time.

Mind you, the management is primarily to blame. The young woman who whooped-up the audience before the film started went too far to encourage crazed behavior. They also had a full-service bar selling cocktails in the lobby – NOT a wise move, as events proved. (And since when is it legal for movie theatres to sell booze anyway?!?)

The pre-show costume contest was a tacky affair, with first prize going to a large group who came with sets and costumes to form a stage-filling tableaux of alps, sheep and assorted Sound of Music props. Once the film started, that stellar group was the main source of disruption, openly guzzling booze they had smuggled into the theatre so they could not have to buy drinks from the bar. When they had depleted their reserves, they swerved out to the bar anyway. Several of these darlings wound up being carried to the restrooms when they fell ill. I am happy to report these pigs never managed to return – the mess they left in the rest rooms made it clear why.

It's not that The Sing Along Sound of Music doesn't have its charms.  This is one of the most beloved movies in the world, and its entertainment value can shine through even the strangest circumstances. But the unnecessary carryings-on often made it impossible to hear the dialogue, and the sing along aspects really don't work – Gen-Xers and hip-hoppers can't sing! Those of us old enough – or gay enough – to know how to sing a showtune were too few and far between to be anything more than oddities in this mob.

Yes, it is great fun to boo the Nazis, hiss the Baroness, say "awwww" every time Gretel acts pathetic, and cheer when the Captain tears apart the swastika flag. The bags of props distributed before the show are downright silly – the cards we are told to hold up cannot be seen in the dark, and the poppers we are supposed to set off when the Captain finally kisses Maria were set off (by those darling drunks) at all sorts of inappropriate moments. These props were clearly an attempt to make people feel less stupid for paying $20 a seat for a movie they had all seen a dozen times before.

I was insulted to find the print they were showing was in lousy condition, with extended faded sections, lots of dirt and more than a dozen sloppy repair spots. At $20 a ticket, New York deserved far better. Heck, anyplace where people pay good money deserved better!

There were a few witty audience ad-libs. When the Mother Abbess begins describing a Captain with seven children, someone called out, "Careful Maria – its a Von Trapp!" (Get it?) And when Uncle Max wanted to have the children sing in the Salzburg Festival, his cry of "I have an announcement! Surprise, surprise!" led to someone shouting out, "I'm gay!" (Author's note: This was especially funny since Max was played by Richard Haydn, who was a homosexual.)

But such bright moments were far too rare. If you really love this film, buy the new DVD or the remastered two disk CD and leave this so-called sing-along to less appreciative souls. I will try seeing this again when it moves to the more intimate Waverly Theatre in a few months. Until then, my heart will be blessed with The Sound of Music at home!

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