One musical – two views. Which will you see?

“One musical – two views.  Which will you see?”

“The Sound of Music” is one of the best -loved musicals of all time.  How could it miss with Richard Rodgers brilliant score and Oscar Hammerstein’s wonderful words?  Songs like “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “My Favorite Things” and even the title song, “The Sound of Music,” have become a permanent part of our cultural landscape.  Many musicals are made into movies but few are equally successful in both their original form (the stage) and the cinema.  The fact that “The Sound of Music” continues to live and remain incredibly popular in numerous genres is a testament to the strength of this work.

The movie version is the one that most people know.  It’s full of iconic images starting with Maria singing the title song while walking over the top of a grassy mountain.  This image is so ingrained in our minds that when I did a quick Google search for images from the show, in the first row of seven images, five were of Maria (Julie Andrews) on the mountain!  There are more… Gretl singing “goodbye” on the stairs, Georg singing “Edelweiss” at the end of the show – the list is endless.  Then there is the music.  You know virtually every song by heart.  For the movie, several songs were cut and in some cases the order is different.  There is also a song (“I Have Confidence”) that was added for Maria to sing as she walks through the streets on her way to the von Trapp house.

For those new to the stage version, there are some wonderful differences from the movie you’ll notice.  In this version “Lonely Goatherd” happens earlier in the show when Maria is in the bedroom with the children.  Here it provides a way for the children and Maria to get to know each other.   The Baroness has two songs with Max and the Captain that were cut from the movie.  These songs give the audience a deeper look into those characters that in the movie were somewhat “one-dimensional.”  Another notable difference is the internal conflict that the characters go through as they deal with the impending Anschluss and the Nazi menace that was to come.  Much of this was toned down for the movie.

Today, many stage productions re-order the music and scenes to try and make a “stage version” of the movie.  While this is a valid approach, I think the stage version, which has a much faster dramatic line, is better suited to the stage.  Bottom line is that Rodgers and Hammerstein knew what they were doing.  They made changes for the movie that were uniquely suited to that medium.  We’re adding one song from the movie into the second act, substituting “Something Good” (lyric and music by Richard Rodgers) for the original “An Ordinary Couple.”  I made this concession to the “hybrid” version because I feel the song is stronger here than the original piece and it gives a more dramatic musical sweep into the wedding scene that follows.

In the end, this great work is the last one Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together.  Hammerstein died just nine months after the Broadway premiere.  It is fitting that, in whatever form it’s presented, “The Sound of Music” is one of the most enduring pieces of American musical theater.