The Hollywood Bowl’s Annual Presentation of “Sound of Music” Stirs Emotions
HOLLYWOOD, CA- The Hollywood Bowl was alive with music and song once more. The Sound of Music -Sing-Along, a fan favorite, returned for a triumph and engaging performance. Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” has always been one of my favorite musicals. Every year it is the movie I put on to decorate the Christmas tree. The movie of hope in difficult times and family unity in my mind is the perfect holiday movie for me. While it may not be considered a holiday movie for most, it is a movie that people adore, the music, the dialogue, and the message of hope in the times of adversary are messages that ring out in everyone’s heart.
The Hollywood Bowl brought the movie to life for die-hard fans with an immersive experience. The pre-show event hosted by comedian Melissa Peterman had the orchestra playing while fans drank their wine- or in my case beer- and enjoyed their charcuterie of delights. Along with the orchestra music playing a great costume contest was held. I was thoroughly impressed with the amazing line up of costumes which included a rose with raindrops, Maria’s pocket with a child dressed as a frog jumping out, curtains as a dress, a brother and sister cloud and pin costume, to an adorable little girl dressed in a habit in a box with riddles and problems to solve. I even got in on the costume fun with my forest landscape dress and my handmade knitted sweater inspired by the 1930s. The creativity was off the chain. The first place was taken by “how do you solve a problem like Maria” costume. It was quite ingenious.
After all the pre-show fun, it was time for the show. Each guest was provided with cards and trinkets to hold up during songs which made the experience even more interactive. The famous scene of Maria, played by Julie Andrews, twirling around brought a burst of cheers from the crowd, and right on queue, the audience was singing to the Sound of Music. Through the early parts of the movie, I couldn’t help but laugh and sing. One gets lost in musicals; even ones that take on a serious subject matter like family life turned upside down by the Nazis.
When we think of authoritarian governments, we often imagine Nazis. They come in and take over, far right, carrying swastika’s. This imagery weighs particularly heavy on me as part of my family was the victim of a totalitarian regime.
My grandfather came from the Austria/Czech region, which is why the Sound of Music has a special meaning for me. It was during the time of 1917-1920, the Bolsheviks Revolution, when the uprising led to the killing of many in Russia and Austria/Hungry, including the territory later known as Czechoslovakia. Most of my grandfather’s family was killed because they were middle class. It was a common occurrence during the revolution to target those with land. Many were forced to escape the country with nothing but their clothes on their backs, including my grandfather. Had he not escaped the country I would not be writing about my evening at the Sound of Music. Those distant families that remained would experience WWII. Though they were Catholic and spared from suffering from the more egregious horrors, they would still experience to horrors of their Jewish friends being murdered. Then would come more decades of brutality during Communism. To say that I am not fully aware of how mob mentality can spread by propaganda is an understatement. We don’t think that an authoritarian regime can happen, but it does happen more often than we’d like to believe especially when people are not paying attention to a right lost here, another one there. All in the name of safety for society.
My mom visited her family in the late 1960s. She was an American and never had experienced an authoritarian government. She quickly learned how crossing the line could lead to her being taken in for questioning by soldiers. She was interrogated for 9 hours straight. What was her crime? She went into a Catholic Church because she wanted to see the Jesus of Prague. She was lucky she was an American, because if not the soldiers would have probably done far worse things to a young 20-year-old woman. There were certain countries they could not cross. My mom was released and not charged with anything because she was lucky enough to be an American. We are so fortunate we have freedoms in America.
In one scene, Captain Von Trapp is looking off to the distance, lost in thought. When the Baroness asks where he is, he replied, “In a world that’s disappearing.” Those words hit hard. I couldn’t help but tear up. A rush of emotions flooded into me. Here I was enjoying a lovely evening watching my favorite music while people in Australia are being limited to go outside for only an hour a day, fined $1,000 for talking to their neighbors. The cafes I would eat at in Paris have people who are forced to show papers to fully armed police. Uyghurs being forced into concentration camps in China for having a different religion. The horrors that are currently happening to the people in Afghanistan who are trying to desperately flee the Taliban. There is madness in the world, but I still hold on to a glimmer of hope. Hope that people will not fall victim to the hatred that wants us to be divided.
One of the most moving moments of the night was the playing of Edelweiss. Thousands of people held out their phones, the bright lights filling the Hollywood Bowl. It looked like a night sky with twinkling stars. Oh, how I wish people around the world would be able to live their lives in peace without fear or threat from authoritarian regimes.
In the final scene the Von Trapp climbed the Alps and escaped the Nazis, the crowd cheered and clapped. Everyone was happy that they were off and free. The real Von Trapp family actually went on tour after the festival to several countries. They did finally move to America in 1939. Funny enough I went to Santa Barbara the following day of the sing-a-long and toured the Santa Barbara Mission. There in the hallways of the mission was a picture of the Von Trapp family in their Austrian outfits singing in front of the mission prior to 1952.
I can only imagine what the Von Trapps, my grandfather, and so many other refugees have felt leaving loss and tragedy behind to come to America in the hopes of freedom. The journeys are not always easy and sometimes difficult to climb but in the end, they reached their dreams.
It was a wonderful night and this movie is forever in my heart for obvious reasons. The energy and participation of the audience are by far one of the best viewings of the Sound of Music I have seen ever. Even with masks voices were not silenced or spirits diminished. My one hope is that more have an opportunity to watch the Sound of Music – Sing along at some point. It was truly a moving experience. I definitely will be back next year, with a box of tissues this time.
For more information on the upcoming Hollywood Bowl performance please check out https://www.hollywoodbowl.com.