“Doe…a deer….a female deer…..”
“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”
“The hills are alive……..”
Yes, that’s right. Who doesn’t know? The hills are alive with the sound of music! I was recently lucky enough to be invited to take part in one of the legendary Sound of Music Singalong screenings in London. Legendary?! I was about to find out why.
A group of 6 of us were brought together by one of my singing friends (we sang in a London choir together) as part of her birthday celebration. One of our party worked in theatre costume, and so was a natural to ask to organise our outfits for the evening. Outfits?? I was aghast at the text message. So, what did they go for? Nuns? Nazis? Lederhosen made from curtain material? None of those. Simplicity and class: 6 identical white T shirts, each emblazoned across the chest area with a musical stave and the following words from the song, “Doe, a deer,” split as indicated between us: When you/ know the/ words to sing/ you can/ sing most/ anything. My T shirt and chest was number 2 in the line-up – “know the.”
Having met up in a Leicester Square bar and changed into our T shirts, we arrived outside the theatre to be met by a cameraman and sound recordist. Looking for eccentric and/or regular ‘singalong’ fans, to the cameraman we didn’t immediately look like good material. But once we had opened our coats, arranged ourselves in the right order, thrust out our chests and started to sing, they were interested. “Do it again girls. (!) So we can get the whole thing.” We were only too happy to oblige. Our evening had begun.
The Sound of Music is a long film. So long it is screened with an intermission. But, a singalong is even longer. Proceedings kicked off about an hour before the screening with the help of a glamorous drag queen, our hostess for the evening. She led a raucous warm up singalong to get us in the mood, and in tune; checked that we all had our complimentary goody/props bags (a sprig of edelweiss; a scrap of curtain material, a party popper etc.) and that we knew how and when to use them; and held and judged a costume parade in front of the stage.
All of the audience were dressed up, and none of them were backwards in coming forward. There were hundreds of nuns (male and female) as you might expect. So many of them that their costumes were judged in a category of its own. The winner was a striking young man with a beard and glasses who, was with his wife, also dressed (rather more convincingly) as a nun. In the non-nun category were some brown paper packages tied up with string; a few deer, or rather people wearing antlers; a handful of Marias and Captain Von Trapps; a woman with an umbrella (raindrops) carrying a bunch of roses; and us, stretched out in line across the front. During a rousing full audience singalong of ‘Doe a deer’, we played our parts with aplomb. To our shock and amusement, we won the non-nun costume category!!
This ultimate entertainment and audience participation experience is rightly legendary. Taking part, I learned, is not optional. It is integral to the point and enjoyment of the evening. And not just by dressing up and singing along, but also by holding a dialogue with the characters on screen, reacting to the plot development, and amusingly commenting at random on the storyline and the way in which characters are behaving. My favourite such commentator was a young man dressed as a bee, sitting a few rows behind us, who defended the character of the Baroness, Maria’s love rival for the Captain. I agreed with him – she walked away when she saw the Captain and Maria were in love.
OK the film is dated and overlong, but the music is joyous and touching, if a little twee at times. So, if you and your friends enjoy dressing up and a good sing song, get yourselves tickets for a Sound of Music Singalong, and throw yourselves into the full experience with gusto like we did. Its the only way. The alternative? Run for ‘the hills’!!!!