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With: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Ben Wright, Daniel Truhitte, Norma Varden, Marni Nixon, Gil Stuart, Evadne Baker, Doris Lloyd, Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond
Written by: Ernest Lehman, based on the musical by Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse
Directed by: Robert Wise
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 174
Date: 03/02/1965

The Sound of Music (1965)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Totally Unprepared

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Note: The following review refers to the special "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music" event screened in San Francisco in the spring of 2001.

What do you get when you cross Halloween at the Castro, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mystery Science Theater: 3000, and The Sound of Music?

As the Baroness calls it, "a gay party."

Seriously, though, I was not looking forward to Sing-a-Long Sound of Music, mainly because I'm not an admirer of Robert Wise's 1965 Oscar-winning monstrosity. It's a bulldozer of a musical, plowing straight through things like taste, restraint, grace, and style in favor of big, big, and more big. But I quickly realized that for this audience-participation event that's touring the country and now stops in San Francisco for two weeks, a good movie just wouldn't have worked. And before long I found myself singing, shouting, and giggling with the rest of the audience.

I didn't know this, but The Sound of Music has legions of crazed groupies for fans. These people know the movie inside and out and cannot get enough of it. I recommend that you be one of these fans to enjoy Sing-a-Long Sound of Music, although it's not entirely necessary. Nevertheless, The Sound of Music has never received the Rocky Horror treatment, in which audiences were allowed to burst during the screening, sallying forth with song and laughter and gaiety. So the presenters of the film provide us with a few guidelines to get started.

First, we are to shout when we first see Maria (Julie Andrews) over the hillside. We are to hiss at the Baroness (Eleanor Parker), and boo at the Nazis. We are to bark at the delivery boy Rolf (Daniel Truhitte), who is in love with the oldest Von Trapp girl, Liesl (Charmain Carr), and finally, we are to "aww" at little Gretl (Kym Karath), the youngest Von Trapp girl.

The presenters also provide us with a little goody-bag. In the bag resides some cards, a plastic sprig of Edelweiss, and a party popper. One card has a question mark and another has a picture of Maria. When the nuns sing, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" the audience is supposed to hold up the question mark card during "problem" and the Maria card during "Maria." On the backs of these cards are the word "flibbertigibbet" and a will-o-the-wisp, which we are also supposed to hold up during the appropriate parts of that song. A piece of fabric is provided to goad Maria into realizing that she can make kids' clothing out of the curtains. The Edelweiss, obviously, gets swayed overhead during the song of the same name. And the popper gets popped when Maria and the Baron kiss for the first time. (Song subtitles are provided for the lyrically challenged.)

Now, that's a lot to remember. The first thing that went out the window during the film was the use of the cards. Apparently nobody stopped to think that we couldn't see them in the dark to figure out which was what. The Edelweiss, on the other hand, was a rousing success, as everyone was able to feel in their bags for the little plastic flower. The poppers, likewise, worked well, sounding like movie fireworks during the long-awaited kiss.

The audience soon provided their own amusement as well. Anytime a character told a fib, such as when Liesl climbs in Maria's window soaking wet after a kiss from Rolf, the audience yells "LIAR!" Other amusing moments included one fan yelling at Maria to "take a bow," which she does, just after entering the Baron's empty ballroom. Another fan pointed out that the Baroness' red dress highlights the more... ahem... private areas of her chest. And a few viewers saved their poppers for less appropriate moments during the film's climax.

Then there were the costumes! The contest beforehand (judged by critic Jan Wahl and actress Charmain Carr in person) revealed such amusing ideas as Brown Paper Packages Tied Up in Strings, Crisp Apple Strudel (which was delicious, mind you), My Favorite Things, The Hills Are Alive, and some guy named Ray, a Drop of Golden Sun. The two most popular were The Lonely Goat Turd (sic) and Totally Unprepared. I'll let your imagination do the rest.

The best part came when costumed revelers went up on stage during their respective cinematic scenes. A poor Leaving Maria, complete with yucky dress and guitar case wandered around on stage during her scenes, and a Baroness in Drag nearly got hit by the Baron's speeding car, coming right at her at the bottom of the frame. During the "Do Re Mi" song, a giant word "LA" bounced back and forth under the screen, carried by an eager fan.

As the excruciatingly long three-hour film dragged on, the audience's enthusiasm deflated a little, especially during the Nazi scenes. And although the film leaves you with a sickly feeling, like having devoured a mountain of pink marshmallows, Sing-a-Long Sound of Music was an evening I'll not soon forget.

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