Well, ladles and jelly spoons, it has officially been a half a century since the Broadway premier of The Sound of Music. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Broadway production, Sony has released a special commemorative CD of the original cast recording.
As is customary for these re-releases, this recording includes a number of bonus cuts, which here include a track from the long-out-of-print Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. Three years before Julie Andrews would appear in what is now her most iconic role, she sang a parody version of The Sound of Music with Carol Burnett called "From Switzerland: The Pratt Family." The results are moderately amusing, but hardly memorable, but perhaps it will tide us over until Columbia decides to re-release the full CD.
The two remaining bonus cuts are of marginally greater interest. There's a German version of "Edelweiss" culled from the first-ever Viennese production of The Sound of Music. And perhaps most interesting is the cut with Tommy Körberg, of Chess fame, doing a stirring rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" ("Sök dig till bergen").
And then there's the cast recording itself. Every year, in my musical-theater history course, we briefly (very briefly) discuss The Sound of Music, and I posit the notion that, while the show is a sentimental favorite among theatergoers, it in fact represents a regression in quality on the part of Rodgers and Hammerstein. A number of my students invariably react as though I've kicked a puppy. But these students are likely reflecting their affection for the movie version of "The Sound of Music," which in many respects is a considerable improvement over the stage show. Despite the immense popularity that the film has engendered, neither the film nor the stage play can even come close to the artistry of Oklahoma!, Carousel, or The King and I, nor even South Pacific, for that matter, and regular readers will recall that I consider South Pacific to be the most overrated musical ever.
But I must confess a certain fondness for The Sound of Music. I grew up listening to a bunch of LPs that my parents had of various stage shows and movie musicals, although in retrospect it's strange that they even had those LPs since they never really listened to music at all. But I did, and I greedily devoured the cast recordings to Godspell, Mame, and Oliver, as well as the soundtracks to "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music." That's probably where my obsession with musical theater began, so I guess I have my parents to thank for that. I was particularly taken with "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," and would flounce around the house singing it incessantly, singing all of the parts myself. (OK, so where does *that* fall on the Gay-O-Meter? Off the frickin' chart, huh?)
But I've never really been a fan of the cast recording of The Sound of Music. Perhaps my own initial fondness for the soundtrack has prevented me from ever truly enjoying the cast recording, or maybe it's because it was at this point in Mary Martin's career that her voice started to show some wear. In the '40s, Martin had a lovely resonance in her low notes and a slight delicacy to her upper range. But by the end of the '50s, Martin's lower range had become overly pronounced and mannish, while her upper range grew thin and raspy. So, I'll probably file this CD in my collection, and if I ever do get the urge to indulge in some old-fashioned R&H treacle, I'll probably just bust out the movie soundtrack or throw in the DVD.
And now, guys and dolls, for the fun part: The first ever EIKILFM trivia contest! I have an extra copy of the 50th anniversary CD to give away to one lucky reader. Below are five questions regarding The Sound of Music. Respond below with your answers, and in the very likely event that more than one person gets all of the questions correct, I'll select a winner randomly from those entries. (Don't worry about tipping other readers off to the answers. I won't publish the comments until I've selected a winner)
SOUND OF MUSIC TRIVIA CONTEST
1. Name a song from the stage version of The Sound of Music that wasn't in the film.
2. Name a song from the film of The Sound of Music that wasn't in the stage version.
3. What was the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together?
4. What role did Oscar Hammerstein *not* perform on The Sound of Music that he did perform on every other R&H show?
5. With what other show did The Sound of Music share its Best Musical Tony Award?
[CONTEST DEADLINE: 11/13/2009]