Sing-a-Long Sound of Music," the interactive London phenomenon, had its official New York opening Sept. 6 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan, and the auditorium was alive with the sound of music, along with enthusiastic cheers, boos, hissing, barking, and sympathetic "ahs."
During the costume parade that preceded the screening of the famous Julie Andrews film, the audience roared its approval for a busty figure arrayed in a strapless gown resembling the mountain Andrews climbs at the start of the picture. The bodice of the dress featured snow-capped peaks in the appropriate places, with the skirt swelling into a whole mountain town. Two men linked by a rope and dressed in striped shirts that resembled staff paper represented "so," a needle pulling thread, and "la" a note that follows "so." A trio came as "ti" with jam and bread. Not a few audience members were carrying, or wearing, brown paper packages tied up with strings. There were also little girls in party clothes, folks with snowflakes on their nose and eyelashes, and nuns (male and female). The top prize went to the man who came as "The Gazebo" (a large umbrella with a white curtain hanging from the edges). Clad in lederhosen, with a long brown wig pinned to the right side of his head, he'd pop out of the curtain alternately showing the profiles of the young lovers, Rolf and Liesl.
Revelers were instructed to cheer for Maria, hiss the Baroness, and boo Nazis. When mountains were seen or sung about, hands were raised in the air. A fun-pack of props included a fabric swatch to wave when Maria realized that she could make playclothes from curtains; edelweiss flowers; and a party popper that let off a spark when Maria and the Captain finally kiss. As at the cult favorite, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," audience members called out to the characters on screen -- telling Maria "go into the ballroom, now curtsey" or "Lose the hat!" Each time a guitar was lifted, there were requests for "Stairway to Heaven" and "Freebird." The crowd was invited to march in place as each child was introduced, and to rise as the bridal couple came down the aisle. During the processional, the "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" indulged in an interpretive dance on the stage in front of the screen. (No, it wasn't the "Time Warp.")
The event was mobbed with photographers and camera crews. At intermission, cast members Charmian Carr (who is in New York promoting her memoir "Forever Liesl"), Daniel Truhitte (Rolf) and Kym Karath (little Gretl) signed autographs.
The Ziegfeld's panoramic screen gave a crisp print of Robert Wise's film a stunning setting. Many lingering scenery shots that had been trimmed over years of television broadcasts were restored, along with the "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" reprise for Maria and Liesl. And Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics appeared in subtitles during every musical number, along with the Latin for the evening prayer service at the convent. *
"The Sing-A-Long Sound of Music" makes its U.S. debut in tandem with the 35th Anniversary release of "The Sound of Music." This special "Five Star Collection" edition features interviews with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, commentary from Oscar winning director Robert Wise, and six hours of bonus programming.
The running time for "Sing-A-Long Sound of Music" is three and a half hours. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students. Performances run at the Ziegfeld Sept. 15-28. For reservations, call (212) 239-6200. The Ziegfeld is located at 141 West 54th Street.
"The Sing-a-long Sound of Music" hopes to find both a permanent home in New York City and to tour on to other U.S. cities in 2001. For further information, visit the website at http://www.singalonga.com.
and Christine Ehren