Let's Start at the Very Beginning - The True Story of The Sound of Music

31 January 2020 by Editor

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It's one the most famous musicals of all time and most of us know that The Sound of Music is based on real life events. But some of its story may not be as widely known. Here are a few fun and interesting facts about the show that's remained a firm family hit for over a century.

Shooting the idyllic opening scene was NOT a breeze

As Julie Andrews whirls around on a mountain top, her heart beating "like the wings of the birds", you can almost feel the fresh Austrian breeze on her face. Yet the hills weren’t alive with the sound of music, and Andrews wasn’t spinning with pleasure in the Alps. The scene was in fact shot in Germany and she kept being knocked over by the downdraft from a helicopter carrying the cameraman. The sparkling brook was made from plastic filled with water and the trees were planted temporarily for the shoot. Andrews was no doubt singing with joyful relief when the iconic shot was finally caught in a 20-minute window of sunshine amidst the wind and rain.

A Mountainous Success

The stage musical of The Sound of Music made its debut on Broadway in 1959, with the movie released in 1965. Both are based on the real Maria von Trapp’s 1949 book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. The film won five Oscars and became one of the most successful movies of all time, grossing $286,000,000 worldwide, and is credited with saving 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.

Swan Song

The soundtrack was the last one written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose legendary musicals include South Pacific and Oklahoma!.

Finding Maria

Julie Andrews was first choice for the role of Maria for film producer and director Robert Wise, followed by Grace Kelly and Shirley Jones. Other actresses rumoured to have been considered included Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Leslie Caron and Anne Bancroft. Ernest Lehman, who wrote the screenplay, only wanted Andrews. Wise finally felt compelled to cast Andrews when he saw footage of her playing Mary Poppins before the film, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress, was released.

Casting the von Trapps

Sean Connery could have swapped the Secret Service for the Austrian Alps as he (along with Bing Crosby, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton) was in the running to play Captain von Trapp. Christopher Plummer reportedly turned the role down several times and was said to have hated the film but eventually grew to love it. Some of The Osmonds were keen to be von Trapp children, and starlets such as Mia Farrow and Patty Duke auditioned for Liesl. The latter went to the unknown Charmian Carr.

The Missing Priest

Maria didn’t teach the children to sing, a young priest called Father Franz Wasner did. The real Maria was upset he wasn’t in the stage show but was told that she and Wasner couldn’t both be in it.

The Great Escape

The Von Trapps didn’t flee over the mountains to Switzerland, they escaped by train to Italy.

This is Not a Love Song

The Sound of Music was nearly called Love Song. Fortunately there were so many shows copyrighted under that title lawyers called for another name. Unfortunately in Hong Kong it was called Fairy Music Blow Fragrant Place, Place Hear.

A New Generation of Fans

The Sound of Music continues to score a hit with some of today’s biggest artists. Lady Gaga sang a medley of its songs at the 87th Oscars in 2015, and Ariana Grande's track 7 Rings was inspired by My Favourite Things. 

Triumphant Over the Critics

When The Sound of Music opened on Broadway critics didn’t like it, but the audience did – and over 60 years later families still love this heart-warming musical.

Even though some facts have been changed, it IS a true story that the world-famous singing von Trapp family escaped to freedom and happiness as their beloved Austria became part of the Third Reich at the start of WWII.

Book here to see Bill Kenwright’s lavish new production of this unforgettable classic at half term, 18th – 22nd February. 

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