After being bored and slightly irked by the 1965 film as a child, The Sound of Music barely entered my consciousness again for 45 years. Like everyone I was regularly exposed to those aerial shots of Julie Andrews whirling in Alpine meadows in Oscar presentations or programs about cinema history. At some point in my adult life I came to realise that there are people who are quite obsessed by the film. A friend knew all the lyrics by heart, a colleague showed me a video of her large family re-enacting the So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye number, I saw a cabaret artist deconstruct the entire plot in his act. However, nothing prepared me for the impact the choice of The Sound of Music as the school musical would have on this family's life!
Some time in February it was rumoured that my 15 year old daughter was likely to be cast as Maria. Weeks of suspense and conflicting emotions followed. She did have the best voice in the school, didn't she? She'd demonstrated that and her acting ability in previous productions. Would they consider her mature enough to 'carry' the show? She was pretty iffy about that responsibility and about playing an ingenue nun with a bizarre belief that singing about deer, goats and copper kettles cured most of life's ills. Weeks passed and she greeted the music teacher's secret assurance to her that she would be cast as Maria with a mix of dread and derision, while we greeted it with skepticism* without something more concrete like a note home.
When the casting was confirmed and the arduous rehearsal schedule began our relief let us become foolishly complacent about our child's actual attendance every time she was required. Shrill phone calls from the director commenced. 'Must do better' we resolved. Huddled conferences with the director, music teacher and the school counsellor occurred. I was asked to become my daughter's 'personal assistant' and to remind her of each and every rehearsal. They offered to send cabs to collect her when she was exhausted or off colour. Could she really cope at all? They suggested she play a lesser nun. We convinced her to hang in there. Her School Certificate exams were rescheduled so that she could concentrate on learning all her lines and blocking every scene!
They were aghast that she had never seen the film. We hired it. She hated it. She became determined to create a Maria as unlike Julie Andrews as she could. We started making jokes about the script and lyrics. 'What is it Maria, you c*nt face?' How do you solve a problem like Maria? You marry her off to God or if that doesn't work to a randy old Austrian millionaire. The self consciousness kicked in. Various Von Trapp kiddies were taller than her, thinner than her, the Baroness had all the jokes, she had nauseating sweetness and unfounded optimism.
We trawled the op shops for garments that were demure but not hideous. The smell of nylon that had encountered much sweat over many years remained in our nostrils. We got a pair of pearlescent cream high heels for the wedding scene for $2! Then we found a convincingly Laura Ashley/30s Austria like floral number on eBay... It would be an improvement on the checked rag of a dress I'd already had to darn twice. But would our bid win it? And would it arrive in time? At $14 we paid over op shop odds for it but it was just the ticket and arrived in time for the two public performances.
Then in the actual week of the performances, with a masterstroke of bureaucratic absurdity, the school suspended her for skiving off after an excursion the week before. Which days did they choose to have the suspension take effect? The days of the first two performances. Did they tell us? Yes, by snail mail that arrived after the suspension was meant to occur. (Our daughter had been handed a copy of the letter too but found it all too silly and distracting to contemplate and just buried her copy in the depths of her school bag). Blithely unaware that we were contravening a Department of Education direction and could be inviting police action, we ferried her to and from the performances, went through lines one last time, applied make-up, moved scenery and helped her struggle through costume changes. When we became aware of the suspension we were livid.
Any way, that idiocy aside, the public performances went ahead gloriously on 18th and 19th June. Our girl is a prodigious talent and acquitted herself brilliantly.
The Sound of Music remains a very silly story (and an atrocious departure from far more interesting real life see: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps.html ) The values of the film are wildly artificial and anti-feminist but to give Rogers and Hammerstein a bit of credit, the stage version does contain two very droll numbers shared by the Baroness, Max and Captain Von Trapp and the anti Nazi theme is explored more fully (arguing over collaboration is actually what breaks up the Captain and the Baroness).
This production was far from silly in its quality and effect and we are proud and thrilled to see how our girl has grown, quoting Maria she can now declare:
Strength doesn't lie in numbers.
Strength doesn't lie in wealth,
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers,
When you wake up, wake up!
It can be all I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own!
I have confidence in confidence alone.
I have confidence in confidence alone!
Besides, which you see,
I have confidence in me!
Well done little Diva, clever Belle Starr!
*Once bitten you see, my high school music teacher planned a production of HMS Pinafore and offered me Buttercup only to snatch away our chance at fame and acclaim by telling the class that God had told him in a vision not to proceed with the show (for 'God' read the Principal and the school's accountant, I suspect).