Broadway Premiere of The Sound of Music – 11/16/1959

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When people watch a movie or see a Broadway production that is based on true events, does that mean that the entire presentation is real? While it may sound like the answer is yes, the reality is that most of the time is no. One such example would be the Broadway musical masterpiece known as “The Sound of Music.” 

Many people had questions about this as where does reality end and fantasy begin. Was it true that within the hills that surrounded Salzburg a young Austrian nun suddenly sang how much she loved music named Maria? Did she collapse whenever her future husband would sing regarding an alpine flower or comfort herself thinking about copper kettle’s as central Europe watched the threat of Nazism slowly spread?

Although Maria von Trapp existed, she did do what was mentioned above. Maria was actually a former nun who would eventually marry Count Georg von Trapp and become the stepmother to his many children; however, almost all of the details presented in her book titled “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” in 1949 were excluded from the Broadway musical her memoir inspired by the producers. It was reported later that show writers Russell Crouse and Howard Lindsay, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and its composer Richard Rodgers did take some liberties as well as caused some consternation toward both Maria and the step children. Yet, “The Sound of Music” on its opening night on Broadway in 1959 was a huge success as a result of those liberties.

Predictably, the Broadway production drew huge sales in advance in large part due to the extremely popular performer Mary Martin and a creative team comprised of legends of Broadway. Patrons continued to be drawn in to seeing the performance despite the show receiving at times unenthusiastic reviews. One such review came from “The New York Times” which said that the show “lack[ed] the final exultation that marks the difference between a masterpiece and a well-produced musical entertainment.” However, one reviewer named Brooks Atkinson said that the music has an “affecting beauty” to it and helped to avoid being a tale that was about to be “sticky.”

Whether or not one agrees with the comment of being “sticky,” “The Sound of Music” was an immediate success as well as a number of songs included in the score such as “Climb Every Mountain,” “Do Re Mi” and “My Favorite Things” rapidly became the popular rule. In fact, the first recording of the cast was almost a large phenomenon as “The Sound of Music” itself. Columbia Records released the recording from the cast exactly one week after the show opened in 1959 and the result was seeing the album launch on the Billboard album charts straight up to the top and would eventually sell almost three million copies across the world!

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