The Sound of Music

Directed By: Robert Wise

Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood, Eleanor Parker, Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, and Kym Karath

My title is a dead giveaway.  I love The Sound of Music.  With unforgettable tunes like "Do-Re-Mi" and "My Favorite Things", this undoubtedly stands as one of the great musicals of all time.  With Julie Andrews of Mary Poppins lore headlining the film, director Robert Wise certainly has a singer with some pipes.  It doesn't hurt that she's singing music composed by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  With the great Christopher Plummer, he has a thoroughbred actor as well.  It doesn't hurt that Wise is tackling the rich tale that the Von Trapp family lived in the turbulent times leading up to World War II during the early twentieth century.  Together, Wise, Andrews and Plummer make the hills come alive in this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical The Sound of Music.

It's 1938.  Maria (Julie Andrews) lives at a convent in Austria and aspires to take her vows and become a nun.  She's not doing too well, however.  She wanders through the hills, she's frequently late, and she sings entirely too much.  With this in mind, Mother Abbess (Peggy Wood) takes the first chance she gets to send Maria out into the world to reevaluate her life choice to be a nun.  When naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) sends her a request for a governess.  Mother Abbess sends Maria to the von Trapp home to fulfill the captain's request.  With seven children in her care, however, Maria may not have too much time to reflect and figure out what to do with her life.

Captain von Trapp runs his household like a ship.  The captain has a whistle that he puts to endless use.  As opposed to their names, each one of his seven children respond to the sound of a particular whistle.  The children don't play or do anything fun.  Worst of all, they can't sing.  Maria makes it abundantly clear very early in her time there that she's not terribly fond of the captain's way of doing things.  A free spirit, Maria begins bringing fun and cheer into the Von Trapp home.  The captain sees it as a lack of self-control, but he can't stop her since he's headed off to see his girlfriend Baroness Elsa von Schraeder (Eleanor Parker) for several days.  During this time, Maria introduces the children to a few of her favorite things, including music.  By the time the captain returns, the von Trapp Family Singers have been born.   Meanwhile, the Holocaust and World War II loom.

Julie Andrews' Marie is a free spirit in The Sound of Music, and Robert Wise incorporates the defining traits of his main character into his filmmaking.  The hills are alive as Wise gives us sweeping panoramic shots of the gorgeous open landscapes in Salzburg, Austria.  He just uses the natural beauty of the region to underscore this free spirit.  The music similarly incorporates this theme.  Unlike her somewhat restrained performance in Mary Poppins, Andrews lets loose and shows us the true power of her vocals.  Lastly, Wise gradually frees Maria and Captain von Trapp from the attitudes and mindsets that come from working in a convent and serving in the navy respectively. 

The cast brings their best to the film as well.  As our lead character Maria, Julie Andrews brings a warm energy to the screen.  Though her voice is front and center with her incredible range on display, Andrews gives us a rich, nuanced performance in The Sound of Music.  As this surrogate mother and unexpected lover, Andrews is authentic and relatable.  She's fidgety, undisciplined, and flawed.  It's nice to see her demonstrate her acting prowess by not giving us a character practically perfect in every way.  For his part as Captain Georg von Trapp, Christopher Plummer is equally enjoyable in a different way.  As the order-loving naval captain, a young Plummer deftly gives us a fiery, sharp-tongued rich guy whose tough exterior masks an emotionally fragile interior.  Whether we're talking about the von Trapp children, the Baroness Elsa von Schraeder, or any of the nuns, the supporting cast also bring quite a bit of fun energy and good music to the film.

"When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything..."  That's exactly what Julie Andrews and her fellow cast members do as they delight us with numerous tunes that have stood the test of time.  The evidence is quite clear even today.  Just look to the reimagining of The Sound of Music on NBC happening this month or Mary J. Blige's cover of "My Favorite Things" on her recent Christmas album.  The Sound of Music is not just one of my favorite things but that of many around the globe.  For a movie that came out some 48 years ago, that's not too bad at all.  The Sound of Music gets a sober rating.