I enjoy putting pieces together for radio. It means I’m clarifying information that is already in my head or I’m finding out new facts about things that have already interested me. This week I was speaking on Future Radio about the enduring appeal of The Sound of Music’.

How masculine do I sound? How comfortable with my sexual identity am I to discuss such thing on the radio? Well these are questions that I would like to address, i.e. the context of musicals and the demographic of audiences/fans but on this occasion I’ve tried not to stray from ‘The Sound of Music’.

The previous item on-air was discussing Tales of the City, the wonderful novels by Armistead Maupin. I’ve read the series a couple of times myself and some worthy points were made by the readers. The link to my item was that the musical of Tales of the City opened earlier this year in San Francisco. It received mixed reviews but poignant notes were made about its nostalgic look of pre-Aids American, glam rock seventies style. If we’re taking nostalgic looks at things, I thought it a good place to mention Taboo. Taboo is Boy George’s creation of 2002 that looks at the 1980s scene and Leigh Bowery (I admit this is the briefest description of Taboo I’ve ever written – I think it’s great with lyrics and songs that really drum home some of the messaging. Petrified is my favourite, followed by Guttersnipe- as a fun choice).

And from nostalgic sounds and looks comes the link to The Sound of Music’ I think we all like it (referencing the film) because of the luscious scenery, the quaint visuals, the homeliness and the ideological representation of a family (which is what we get at the end of the story).

Being based on a true story and of the 1956 West German film The Trapp Family, it was originally going to be a play until the music subsumed the story and that’s when Rodger and Hammerstein came up with their part. The 1959 opening season won the best musical tony award with Mary Martin as Maria. Martin was 46 when she played the role, rather like Petula Clark who was 49 when she played Maria in the 1981 revival. The real Maria was in the audience of one of Clark’s performances and made comment she was the most ‘convincing’ Maria she had seen.

Since the film release of 1965 (which can boast 5 Academy awards) we’ve had the sing-a-long-a presentations (from 1999 onwards, still playing today in Leicester Square), the 2006 London revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s production starring Connie Fisher, winner of TV’s talent search How do you solve a problem like Maria’ and now the 2011 UK tour. It now stars Verity Rushworth (from TV’s Emmerdale – but she also has a number of stage and musical credits under her belt.

Currently playing in Norwich this week and last, Theatre Royal Norwich can proudly boast amazing ticket sales with only a few to spare this week. The appeal? The resistance to oppression/the Nazis, a charismatic mother figure, the heroine is desexualised (we have romance at the end but it’s not really the focus), she can teach people to sing, luscious sets, she sways her handsome square man round to emotions and to embrace his children and music.

If all stories could have that happy ending. If we all could express our feelings through song. If we could all cut our clothes from curtain material. Perhaps we’d all smile a bit more.

Future Radio
Future Radio podcast of show mentioned above (15th August 2011) The Sound of Music 2011 UK Tour Theatre Royal Norwich