Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The mystique lives on, and on, and on….

The question is, how long can it last? I was talking about this recently with my boyfriend, Holger, who is German and lives just outside Munich, Germany. It was shortly after Christmas, and the movie had been recently aired. He expressed his amazement at the ongoing popularity and hype it still gets, particularly because many people nowadays – especially the younger generations – don’t even know of the Trapp Family Singers, or their music. Why does it continue to grow in popularity rather than fade into its place in movie history with the rest of the popular musicals?

Now understand, when we first met, he had heard of the Sound of Music, but had never seen it. He was more familiar with the original German film, Die Trapp-Familie. Of course, my daughters and I fixed that on his first visit – treating him to a private screening at our house, complete with sing-a-along and running commentary. I haven’t often had the opportunity to witness a virgin viewing – most people I know have seen it at least once. As a guy who’s more into Quentin Tarantino films than Rogers and Hammerstein musicals; he was a good sport to watch it with us. And while we didn’t succeed in creating a new groupie, he did appreciate it, especially since it was about our family.

Our conversation got me to thinking however, he did have a point. How often does a movie or theater production sustain the level of popularity that the Sound of Music has achieved Рmovies like Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter; and musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis̬rables, The Lion King, and Annie come to mind. But certainly there are even fewer whose fans span generations, and have experienced multiple revivals.

Take, for example, the aforementioned Sing-Along Sound of Music craze, which I just discovered is alive and well at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, WA (gotta love Google). Or how about the BBC reality show, How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? that Andrew Lloyd Webber created to fill the role of Maria in his West End London revival in 2006. That inspired a version that was aired in Belgium, Op zoek naar Maria, for which the now-famous viral video of 200 dancers performing Do Re Mi in the Antwerp train station was created to promote.
Even on a small scale, the infatuation continues. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a local performance of The Sizzling Strings – a one-family musical group from Utah – who opened their show with, you guessed it, a Sound of Music medley.

But these examples only illustrate the momentum that continues to propel SOM forward in popularity, rather than settling into a quiet, nostalgic type of fame like, for instance, My Fair Lady or Mary Poppins. They don’t, however, answer our original question of how long will it last? Readers, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

(Talk about coincidence – as I write this, I’m hearing a commercial on TV for Dove, Damaged Therapy, set to the tune of My Favorite Things, which reminded me about last night’s episode of Gossip Girl referenced the Sound of Music. See what I mean? It baffles the mind.) -- F.v.T.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Public Outing (aka: most embarrassing moment. Ever.)

Does anyone remember that short-lived phenomena that began in London called the Sing-along Sound of Music?  Someone got the bright idea that the film would adapt well to the Rocky Horror Picture Show concept of audience participation, complete with costumes. There were articles in the news about the guy who dressed in yellow spandex and went as “Ray, a drop of golden sun”….stuff like that.

So when my friend Susan found out that Sing-along SOM was coming to Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston, she called me right up.  This was way too funny.  We decided we had to go…in costume….. as The Curtains. (You know, the ones that Maria made the dirndls and lederhosen out of when Georg refused to give her fabric to make play clothes.)

In addition to Susan, her husband Steve, and my husband Colin, I invited my very dear friend (and coincidentally the minister of our church) Richard Jones, because he was one of the biggest Sound of Music Fans I know, and it was thanks to him that my 6-year-old daughters got to see the Broadway production when it came to the Colonial Theater.  He surprised us with tickets and took us all, because he didn’t want Jessie and Savannah to miss out on the experience.  (What he didn’t tell me was that he wanted to arrange for us to meet Richard Chamberlain himself, which fortunately never happened because he didn’t perform that night due to illness.) 

Notice I just said "fortunately that never happened?" That wasn' t a typo.  At that point in my life, I preferred to fly under the radar and had been enjoying the anonymity my married name of “Gibson” afforded me.  Yet here I was, about to surround myself with the groupiest of Sound of Music groupies.  So on the way to the theater, I reminded my companions that we were going Incognito.  I think I was even specific. Please do not tell anyone that I am a von Trapp.  I said it mostly for Richard's benefit, remembering the near-miss with Richard Chamberlain.

We arrived at a packed theater, and had to take seats close to the front.  Once we settled in, I noticed Richard had disappeared.  Then I saw him coming down the aisle – an entire camera crew and some news commentator with a microphone in tow.  What the hell was he doing?  I felt the panic start to rise in my throat. Remember:  stage fright.  (WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTENT CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR READERS UNDER THE AGE OF 13 OR OLDER THAN 75 BUT IS NECESSARY FOR ACCURACY).

They came right to where we were sitting. Richard looked so proud. The woman with the microphone smiled her big news-magazine-reporter smile and told me she was from Chronicle, and would I mind being interviewed?  I was trapped in the row between Colin, Susan and Steve and a million other attendees.  There was no escape.   I pointed at Richard, “Fuck you! You’re a dead man.” (Yes, to my MINISTER, not one of my proudest moments, I must admit.) The smile on his face froze in place as he realized his mistake.

I only remember a couple of things after that. My friends and husband telling me to go ahead, I could do this. Me, picturing the whole thing on the news and all the stupid things I would say. I tried; I really tried to answer their questions. Then the adrenaline kicked in as I realized I had a choice.  “Fuck this shit. I’m out of here.”  And I fled, out of the theater, out of the building, halfway to the parking lot before collapsing to the curb, sobbing in mortification.  

Susan came to find me, and to coax me back inside. She told me the  camera crew was gone.  The woman reporter was right behind her. I told her to go away. She told me she was sorry, and assured me they wouldn’t use the footage.   (A minor relief – I had temporarily forgotten my academy award winning performance had been captured on tape).  Eventually, I calmed down, and went back inside to see the show. I even enjoyed it.  The Emcee, Ryan, dressed in drag, was a dead-ringer for Julie Andrews.  We won a prize for our curtain costumes. 

During the show, at intermission, and afterwards Richard apologized profusely. I think the experience actually brought him clarity about my life as a von Trapp. The next day, I received a dozen red roses and a card of apology from him. Poor guy, I think he was damaged by this experience more than I was. I’m happy to report that our friendship was not harmed, in fact, its stronger than ever (ironically, I’m no longer married to Colin, and have lost touch with Susan and Steve.)

I have to admit that for a while after this incident I was haunted by it. I couldn’t figure out why I had lost my composure.  I had spent years working at Trapp Family Lodge, and acting as a family spokesperson when called upon to do so.  Ultimately, I came to the realization that this public appearance hadn’t been on my terms. I hadn’t been given a choice or had time to prepare.  Quite the opposite – I had specifically asked NOT to be outed.  Even though I’m not famous in my own right, I feel empathy for those who are and have to deal with this kind of thing every day.    – F.v.T.