Sing-a-Long Sound of Music | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sing-a-Long Sound of Music 

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It's all too easy to put down The Sound of Music. Theater critics sniffed at the 1959 Broadway production, and film reviewers trashed the 1965 screen version, but the public knew better. The musical's emotional openness and unguarded optimism honestly express the worldview of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein; as Ethan Mordden writes in his 1992 book on the team, The Sound of Music is "a very youthful piece written by the elderly, because it is entirely about freedom, which youth always seeks and the aged feel the loss of." Robert Wise's film version enhances the fact-based story's deep-seated appeal with its sweeping aerial cinematography, its location footage of scenic Salzburg, and Julie Andrews's smart, feisty, exuberant performance as the singing nun who finds love with an Austrian military man and his kids, teaching them the beauty of song just in time for the whole flock to escape the Nazis and become world-famous folksingers. This "sing-along" reissue--a scratchy print outfitted with subtitles for the lyrics (including the nuns' Latin chants and the yodeling of "The Lonely Goatherd")--demonstrates that while The Sound of Music may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it's a damn good movie with a terrific score. The marketing strategy behind this rerelease (viewers are encouraged to dress up as nuns, schnitzel with noodles, etc, and to talk back to the characters a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show) may not catch on in Chicago; clever costumes and witty gibes were in short supply at the preview screening I attended. But that's beside the point: this is joyful, wholesome family entertainment, and the children I saw were enraptured by the colorful images, the catchy tunes, and the spectacle of grown-ups singing along with "Do Re Mi" and "My Favorite Things." By drawing in the audience, the event affirms Rodgers and Hammerstein's belief in the power of music to unlock the buoyancy of the human spirit. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, May 11 through 17.

--Albert Williams

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