Small World


The hills are alive. Again. And it's a good thing. Really.

Robert Wise's sticky, Oscar-winning, unavoidable film classic The Sound of Music first played the 5th Avenue Theatre back in 1965; it didn't leave the venue for over two years. Now it's back, but in the winning, playfully kitschy sing-along form that has made it an international sensation all over again. The first screening of its three-day Seattle return revs up the choruses this Thurs., Dec. 20 (and it's also a benefit for Three Dollar Bill Cinema).

Though the film is still the most successful movie musical of all time, many people only secretly like the damn thing, furtively finding their way past its nauseous sentiment and hooey about larks that are learning to pray. The new audience participation format—complete with lyrics on the screen, a costume contest, and a bag of props (cue the edelweiss)—gives them a chance to admit it without shame.

Tom Lightfoot, North American producer of Sing-a-long Productions, the company behind the event, takes the enormous popularity of the venture in stride.

"The film itself does stand up, curiously," he says, with tongue just a bit in cheek. "It's much more than a boy-meets-girl type of story. [Maria] tells the Captain to go piss up a rope, right?"

Whatever the reason, audiences are eating it up, selling out houses from New York to the Netherlands. It's been playing in Lightfoot and his business partner's Prince Charles Cinema in London on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons for the past three years.

Charmian Carr, who'll be appearing at Thursday's event, played eldest daughter Liesl von Trapp when she was only 21 years old; she long ago accepted the fact that the role is her legacy. She still speaks with that ingratiating warm purr and seems to have the same wink and smile about the movie that the rest of us have—which served her well when she entertained at last summer's Hollywood Bowl screening.

"To get up there in front of 17,000 people and try to sing 'Sixteen Going on Seventeen' when you're 58 going on 59 was really tough," she laughs. "[But] it was a thrill."

And it is the crowd that will make the evening the thrill it can be. The Sound of Music may be beloved, but it's the collective act of demonstrating affection and goofy reverence in the company of strangers that gives the sing-along its kick.

"The audience is the star of the evening," Lightfoot says. "It's not the movie."

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