Theatre: The Sound of Music

The hills are alive.....

My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I'll sing once more.

The Sound of Music is the famous musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, based on the story of the Trapp Family Singers. The musical was inspired by an earlier, now largely forgotten German movie adaptation of the book and was made into a movie in 1965, with Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as the Captain. In 1991 the book was again independently adapted in a 40 episode Anime as part of the World Masterpiece Theater series. A live broadcast of the original stage production starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer aired on NBC in 2013, the first live television presentation of a musical since Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella in 1957.

Features nuns, Those Wacky Nazis, and not the Austrian national anthem. The film is virtually unknown in Austria itself, which is odd considering the English-speaking world knows Austria as "that country from The Sound of Music." The exception being the city of Salzburg, and mostly because of the tourists constantly talking about The Sound of Music.

Has enough pop culture references and pastiches to fill a small article on The Other Wiki, although there actually isn't one.

For those who have still managed to live under a rock (or in Austria) for the past 50 years, the musical follows Maria Rainer, a young postulant from Nonnberg Abbey, as she is sent to be a governess to the seven children of retired Navy Captain Georg von Trapp. She soon discovers that the captain not only runs a tight ship, but also cannot bear to be reminded of his wife, meaning that he spends a lot of time in Vienna with Elsa Schraeder (she is a Baroness in the film, but only "Frau Schraeder" in the stage show), with whom he has struck up a romance. As a result, the children are rather rebellious and disdainful of any governesses (who were, as befitting authority figures of the time, rather strict). Maria is, however, kind towards them, and easily befriends the lot, teaching them songs and letting them frolic around the Austrian countryside. Captain von Trapp is, of course, rather taken aback, but soon rediscovers his pent-up happiness and begins to fall in love with Maria, who still hasn't worked out her own emotions. A brief trip back to the Abbey — and a cluebat expertly wielded by the Reverend Mother — convinces her to go with the flow, and she returns and marries Georg.

Unfortunately the Anschluss happens while the two are on their honeymoon and when they return Georg is "asked" to accept a command in the new German navy. Being strongly opposed to Hitler, the family resolves to leave Austria for Switzerland using the pretext of attending a local folk music festival for cover. But the Nazis are not so easily bamboozled and the von Trapps will not get away quite that easily...

These are a few of my favorite tropes:

  • Actually That's My Assistant: When Maria arrives at the Von Trapp home, she mistakes Franz the butler for Captain Von Trapp. According to the real Maria, this actually happened in Real Life.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film takes advantage of its longer time frame, and the fact that it doesn't take place on a single stage, to expand the story - such as Maria taking longer to gain the children's trust, an extended trip through Salzberg, and the kids trying to go and see her when she returns to the abbey.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the show, Rolfe finds the family and calls for his Lieutenant, but decides not to turn them in after seeing Liesl. In the movie, Rolfe almost lets them get away after the Captain takes his gun but ends up calling for the Nazis anyway.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Hearing that von Trapp is a naval captain confuses some modern viewers, considering he lives in a country with no coastline. The thing is, before the end of World War One and the Treaty of Versailles taking a lot of territory away, Austria was connected to the sea (the Adriatic, specifically), and naturally had a powerful navy.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Some productions present Uncle Max as such.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the nuns sing about Maria.
    "She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee
    Her dress has got a tear
    She waltzes on her way to Mass
    And whistles on the stair
    And underneath her wimple
    She has curlers in her hair
    I even heard her singing in the abbey"
  • Beauty, Brains and Brawn
    • Liesl — Beauty
    • Brigitta — Brains
    • Louisa — Brawn
  • Berserk Button: Captain Von Trapp manages to control his temper when confronting Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, but when the otherwise inoffensive Max expresses a blase "what's going to happen is going to happen" attitude about the impending Anschluss, the Captain becomes furious.
  • Beta Couple: Liesl and Rolf are a tragic version.
  • Big Bad: While almost all of the characters are extremely principled and mostly nice people, Herr Zeller is an enemy of Von Trapp from the start and lands up being the Nazi they have to escape from.
  • Bigger Bad: He never makes an actual appearance, but ultimately Adolf Hitler is responsible for all the bad things which happen in the story. Stupid Hitler!
  • Blatant Lies: When the children explain to their father where they've been after secretly trying to go see Maria. Made even funnier by the fact that he's clearly aware they're talking rubbish, and the excuses to patch up the holes in their story just get more and more absurd. For instance, strawberries that were so cold they turned blue...
  • Blithe Spirit: Maria in the von Trapp household.
  • Book Ends:
    • The film opens with panoramic views of the mountains, then zooms onto Maria. The movie ends with Maria and her new family hiking through the same mountains towards the safety of the border. The camera pulls back to give us another panorama of those mountains.
    • The stage show opens and closes to the sound of the Reverend Mother's voice.
  • Brawn Hilda: Such a woman wins third place at the concert, and won't get off the stage so she can keep soaking up applause.
  • The Butler Did It: Somebody must have told the local Nazis the family were sneaking out of the house. In the film, Franz the butler (who the von Trapps never told about their impending escape) collaborates with Rolf, and later is shown watching the family's escape attempt and subsequent apprehension.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Maria had some difficulty trying to realize her feelings for Captain von Trapp and tell him that she loved him. The things that girl has to do to get a kiss!
  • The Cast Show Off: Subverted. Julie Andrews spends a good hour showing off her singing and dancing chops before presenting three eggs to the children as if she's about to display yet another talent. Instead, she fakes juggling them and still drops one.
  • Children Are Innocent: The song "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" demonstrates that while Liesl may be innocent Rolf is certainly more so. Unless you subscribe to an Alternate Character Interpretation.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: When the baroness realizes how much the captain loves Maria, she suddenly realizes the captain isn't the man for her, either.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: How the nuns perceive Maria.
  • Colorblind Casting: The 2013 live version casts a black woman (Audra McDonald) in the role of the Mother Abbess. Well okay, it's not impossible that a black woman could be in an Austrian nunnery in the 1930s, but it seems very unlikely. Incidentally, McDonald is the same woman who was color-blindly cast in the 1999 version of Annie.
    • The Catholic Church was never officially segregated, because racial segregation would have meant schism, which the Church had sought to avoid ever since the late Roman period. Any segregation that would take place would be halfway, with, say, blacks and whites worshiping at Mass together but seated in pews on different sides of the aisle. That said, Austria, unlike most other western European countries, never had an overseas empire, let alone one in Africa, so a black nun is still extremely unlikely. And once the Nazis roll in....
  • Confessional: In the last lines of the film, Sisters Margaretha and Berthe tell the Reverend Mother that they have sinned. When the Reverend Mother asks the sisters what sin they have committed, they reveal that they have swiped the distributors and coils from the Nazis' cars, preventing them from pursuing the Von Trapps.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Reverend Mother Superior of the convent. She instinctively knows that Maria's calling is outside the convent, and she realizes that Maria is in love with the captain. Not to mention when Maria, at first, told the Reverend Mother she left because she was "frightened". To which the Reverend Mother says, "Frightened, were they unkind to you?" The tone which she uses indicates she is very protective of the nuns.
  • Curtain Clothing: When Maria learns the Von Trapp children have no play clothes, she makes them some out of curtains.
  • Cute Bookworm: Brigitta is implied to be one, as she's late answering her father's whistle because she's absorbed in a book.
  • The Cutie: Maria
  • Dad the Veteran: The Captain served in WWI and was decorated for his actions.
  • Dance of Romance: The Laendler, a.k.a. The Scene Where Our Two Oblivious Protagonists Finally Figure It Out.
  • Death Glare: Captain von Trapp's is so awesomely deadly that it should be outlawed by the Geneva Conventions.
  • Defrosting Ice King: The Captain.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: "Since you've obviously stuffed yourselves on thousands of delicious berries, you can't be hungry I'll have to tell Frau Schmidt to skip your dinner." (The Captain)
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Captain von Trapp treats his children this way at the beginning.
  • Even Beggars Won't Choose It: Maria's dress... that even the poor didn't want.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: Maria gets one in the wedding scene that is classically pre-Vatican II Catholic, complete with a multilayer cathedral veil.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Liesl's boyfriend Rolfe does this at the end when he joins the Third Reich. In the movie, he threatens to shoot the von Trapps when he catches them trying to escape, but the Captain confiscates the gun and then says:
    Captain von Trapp: You'll never be one of them.
    Rolfe: (beat, then yelling out) LIEUTENANT! LIEUTENANT, THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE HERE, LIEUTENANT! (blows whistle)
  • The Fatalist: Uncle Max. In the musical version, he and Elsa sing "No Way to Stop It", a cynically defeatist ode to Nazi appeasement.
  • Fear of Thunder: All the Von Trapp kids, prompting Maria to sing "My Favorite Things". (She sings The Lonely Goatherd in the musical.)
  • First Kiss: Liesl gets hers in the gazebo. She then runs into the rain and squeals in delight. "Whee!"
  • Flyaway Shot: How the movie ends.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: When the Germans march into Salzburg.
  • Gentleman Snarker: The Captain.
    Herr Zeller: Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming — and it is coming, Captain — perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music.
    Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section.
    Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.
    Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me — I meant to accuse you.
  • Good Shepherd:
    • Maria almost became one of these but married instead. In any case, she's good at herding unruly children.
    • Mother Reverend takes her title seriously. The tone which she uses indicates she is very protective of the nuns.
    • The other nuns, while highly prim and proper, are all good hearted and clearly learned Christ's lesson about heart of the law instead of letter of the law.
  • Graceful Loser: The Baroness, eventually. One can scarcely blame her for putting up a fight for her love, she's been working on Georg for a long time now.
  • Happy Ending: In all the versions.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Maria is Harmony, von Trapp is Discipline.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • The Baroness gives "rather gay parties" in Vienna.
    • At one point, Uncle Max asks the children "What's the matter with you gloomy pussies?"
    • Kurt says "I wonder what grass tastes like..." Though "grass" was a more common slang word for marijuana at the time the film was made than it is now.
  • Held Gaze: Maria and the Captain have a rather intense one during their Dance of Romance where they look deeply into each other's eyes, definitely upping the UST between them.
  • High Turnover Rate: The Captain tells Maria that he hopes she'll be more successful than the last governess, who stayed only two hours.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Prior to the Anschluss, Austria had been a fascist dictatorship for four years. While the musical technically doesn't say anything to contradict this, it does create the impression that Austria was a free country before it fell to the Third Reich. And the film refers to pre-Anschluss Austria as "the last Golden Days of the Thirties".
  • Hollywood Atlas: Switzerland is not "just over the mountains" from Salzburg. To make it worse, Germany is. A bit of Germany that housed one of Hitler's holiday retreats, in fact. Not just his holiday retreat — across the Alps from Salzburg is Berchtesgaden, which was actually his home, or the closest thing an itinerant dictator had to one. It's called Obersalzberg, meaning Mountain-Above-Salz(burg), and by the Anschluss had multiple SS units stationed there at all times.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Alongside The Song of Bernadette and The Nun's Story, this film was one of the major Trope Codifiers.
  • Hollywood Old: Christopher Plummer was 35 years old at the time the movie was made, whereas the real Captain Von Trapp was 47 when he married Maria.
  • Honorary Uncle: Max, naturally.
  • Honor Before Reason: Captain von Trapp's defiant attitude toward Nazis which was almost Churchillian. He could be one scary dude at times.
  • Hope Spot: In-universe; bolstered by the Reverend Mother's words, Maria returns to the von Trapp house, planning to tell the Captain how she feels about him - only to learn from the children that he's getting married. Ouch. Fortunately, he and the Baroness call off the engagement that very night, and Georg accepts that he's in love with Maria. Awwww....
  • Ignored Epiphany: Rolf has a brief moment of taking the Captain up on his offer to run away with his family. Then he alerts the Nazis after rejecting it.
  • Intermission
  • Introdump: The children, commanded by a whistle.
  • Ironic Echo: "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" is repeated over Maria's wedding to the Captain.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Baroness, eventually. She said the captain wasn’t for her anyway, and she needed someone with a very strong need for her, or at least for her money. That’s a bit of a Red Herring plot point, as it sounded like she was implying she was into Max....
  • "I Want" Song: The title song, "The Sound of Music", has shades of this.
  • Jerkass Façade / Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Captain Von Trapp
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Captain Von Trapp was a member of Europe's noble caste and served by tradition, making him almost a literal as well as a figurative example of this. Alternatively, this could be Warrior Prince.
  • Letterbox: From 1995-2000, NBC showed the musical numbers in widescreen during their telecasts of this movie. Everything else appeared in Pan and Scan, though.
  • Love Triangle: The Captain, Maria and the Baroness, Type 7.
  • Les Collaborateurs: All the Austrians who are accepting Nazi rule are collaborators, represented by Uncle Max and the Baroness. But the Captain refuses to budge, straining their relationship with him. In Real Life, the majority of Austrians viewed themselves at that time as Germans and not as their own nation (with prominent people in the minority being Austrian nobility like the Von Trapps, who were afraid to be dominated by the largely-Prussian German nobility, Prussia being Austria's rival).
  • Magical Nanny: One of the classic examples, played by the same actress as the other one, no less. Maria comes to the household, improves the life of everyone and marries the father of the children she's taking care of.
  • Manic Pixie Dreamgirl: Maria to the Captain.
  • May-December Romance: In Real Life between Georg and Maria, since he was forty-seven to her twenty-two when they got married. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, on the other hand, only have about five years between them.
  • Meaningful Echo: The first time someone sings "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" to Liesl is her crush Rolf, giving her advice about boys. The second time the song is sung to her, it is from Maria, now her mother, giving her advice about love.
  • Mentor
    • The Reverend Mother for Maria.
    • Maria for Liesl.
  • Mood Whiplash: Transitioning immediately from the wedding, to Nazi troops marching into Salzburg with the Anschluss.
  • Movie Bonus Song: "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The musical number "My Favorite Things" ends abruptly when Maria bumps into the Captain (after the line "When the dog bites" no less.)
    • The Captain does this to himself while singing "Eidelweiss" because he is so overcome with emotion.
  • Nazi Germany: "To refuse them would be fatal for all of us. And joining them would be... unthinkable."
  • Nazi Nobleman: Thankfully subverted. Captain Von Trapp hates the Nazis, as did most Austrian and German/Prussian aristocrats in Real Life.
  • Nuns Are Funny: Maria's inability to fit into both the overly strict convent and Von Trapp household; the nuns themselves also run on high doses of The Comically Serious.
  • Nun Too Holy: Maria is a mild example; her carefree spirit is a poor fit for the abbey, but she is clearly devoted to her faith.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Captain von Trapp
  • Off to Boarding School: "Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?"
  • Oh, Crap: A hilarious example happens in the middle of "I Have Confidence". Maria has been building herself up to a fantastic crescendo, "They will look up to ME! AND MIND ME!" But as she approaches the gate, the tempo slows and she gets much, much softer — and when she reaches the gate, she looks inward and says, "Oh, help." Then as she passes through the gate, she gets her confidence back.
  • One Steve Limit: In Real Life, one of Captain von Trapp's daughters was also named Maria; in the musical, she becomes a Louisa instead.
  • Overprotective Dad: The Captain in regards to Liesl; subverted when her boyfriend ends up as a Nazi.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: In a meta sense with the stage-based musical and the film; while the former is always popular, the latter is SO much more famous and well-known that, when watching the play for the first time, people can often get confused and put off by the original locations of some of the songs e.g. My Favorite Things being sung by Maria and the Reverend Mother.
  • Panty Shot: Liesl during her dance with Rolf at the gazebo.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: One of the girls wants a pink one.
  • Parental Substitute: Maria Kutschera became one of these towards the von Trapp children and officially became their mother once she married their father.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Captain von Trapp really did use a whistle. Not because he was a Drill Sergeant Nasty in Real Life but because he had a weak voice and his children were scattered all over a big estate.
  • Recitation Handclasp: The children assume this posture during their recital at the festival.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The von Trapps escape their Nazi "escorts" by... walking out the door while singing "So Long, Farewell..."
  • Remaster: The 45th Anniversary Blu-Ray looks so detailed that you can clearly see each individual blade of grass.
  • Rule of Cool
    • In Real Life, they simply got on a train to Italy. The musical/movie's method of escape gives a better climax - tying in with the "Climb Every Mountain" reprise - and the film provides prettier visuals. But it also fails logic, since they're walking in the direction of Hitler's Mountain retreat, and a division of SS.
    • In the play, Rolf calls a false alarm without any actual prompting, once he realizes that he'd bear the burden of Liesl's possible death. In the movie, Georg has to go out and put Rolf in his place.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: When Maria goes off to be alone and the song number "Climb Every Mountain" happens.
  • Scenery Porn: The film takes full advantage of its location, showing us Salzberg in all its wonderful sunny glory. And then there are the mountains, especially the long shots during the introduction and the family crossing over the border to Switzerland at the end.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Done by the two nuns at the end of the movie who remove key components from the Nazis' cars to keep them from working; technically, sabotaging a vehicle is against both legal codes and their holy orders. They even admit to it by saying "Reverend Mother, I have sinned."
  • Second Love: Maria, for the Captain.
  • So Much for Stealth: They almost fooled the search party inside the abbey, but then Liesl spotted Rolfe...
  • Stepford Smiler: In the film, the Captain is a Type A Smiler when Maria leaves. He cheerfully explains Maria's departure to the children, then immediately asks the Baroness for a drink of "lemonade".
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal
  • Taking the Veil: Maria tries to pull this, and is sent firmly back.
  • Telegraph Gag STOP: Liesl sends the telegram "Dear Rolfe. Stop. Don't stop!"
  • Think Happy Thoughts: "My Favorite Things".
  • Those Two Guys: The Nuns at the end of the film.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The main antagonists.
  • Title Drop: In the first line of the movie.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy Maria and Girly Girl Elsa. Tomboy Louisa and Girly Girl Liesl. Tomboy Brigitta and Girly Girl Marta. And Gretel is somewhere in the middle.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Max, after spending the entire musical/film being pleasant and accommodating to the German occupation, takes a serious risk by helping the von Trapps escape. The 2013 live version makes it darker. After it's announced the Von Trapps have escaped, Max is shown being seized and dragged offstage by Nazi officials, presumably to face Redemption Equals Death.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Two nuns reveal to their Mother that they have removed the distributor and coil (respectively) from the Nazis' automobile, the better to keep them from catching the Von Trapp family.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In reality, Georg and Maria were married in 1927, and she only grew to love him after their marriage - she liked him a lot, sure, but she had to be pressured by the Mother Superior to accept his proposal and give up her dream of being a nun. She'd had two more kids by the time they left, and would have a third in America. The 'Von Trapp Family Singers' thing started because they'd lost a lot of their savings thanks to the Nazis damaging the economy in Austria, were badly in need of funds and entered a music competition - Maria's idea (she was a very resourceful lady). When they escaped, they simply got on a train to Italy, since through a quirk of changing territory the family could claim Italian citizenship. The depiction of Georg von Trapp as a stern disciplinarian annoyed his wife, as he was the exact opposite in real life - it was Maria who was the strict one, while he taught the children music. (She did, however, adore Christopher Plummer.) Of all the exaggerations of their lives, Maria commented in her memoirs that the only thing they didn't go far enough on was her behavior at the convent. She always laughingly commented when asked if she was that bad, "I was worse!"
  • Villainy-Free Villain: The Baroness is shown to genuinely love Von Trapp and her jealousy is mostly justified. Nonetheless, the children despise her after Maria leaves despite her efforts to be motherly towards them. Sure, she inspired Maria to leave, and planned to send the children to a boarding school, but the alternative was to live with a woman her husband loved more than her and seven children who hated her.
  • The Von Trope Family: The Trope Namer, by way of an Incredibly Lame Pun.
  • World War II: Austria's incorporation into the Third Reich is generally accepted by historians as the start of the countdown to the war in Europe.
  • Wrong Name Outburst: In a heated argument, Captain von Trapp angrily calls Maria "captain" before correcting himself.
  • You Are Not Alone: When at the final concert, Captain von Trapp's voice breaks when singing "Edelweiss" as he is surrounded by Nazi propaganda. Maria and the children join with him and give him the strength to carry on. Made stronger in the movie when the audience joins in with them, including several Nazi soldiers.

Alternative Title(s):

The Sound Of Music