Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sound of Music Live! And Why We Should Keep Broadcasting Live Theater to Nationwide Audiences

As I tuned in last night to NBC's The Sound of Music LIVE!, I couldn't help but compare it to the Academy Award-winning film adaptation, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. I, like many kids, grew up with the movie and hold it on a pretty high pedestal.

The Sound of Music was my "thing." I believed myself to be Marta VonTrapp, in the same way that my sister insisted on being referred to as "Cinderella," or my brother believed he was a Power Ranger. Slipping in the VHS and pressing play on my VCR was a routine that exceeded other movie-watching experiences. Today, I'm certain that the movie laid the foundation for my lifelong love of the performing arts.

It wasn't until I was 14 that I set foot inside a professional theater.

My comparisons to "the original" The Sound of Music aside, (to be clear, the stage musical preceded the 1967 film; the movie is just "the original" in my mind!), it was important for me to realize the significance of a major network taking the risk to present musical theater in this format, something that hasn't been done since the 1950s. It's very possible that this adaptation will become as integral in helping a curious kid to develop a love for theater as the Julie Andrews version was for me.

New Yorkers may take for granted our grand theater tradition, but this sort of access to the performing arts isn't the norm, something that became even more clear as I chatted with fellow New 42 staff members this morning about the live broadcast. Our love for the arts developed in a variety of ways, but we all landed in the same place. We were introduced to theater through TV, films, school arts programs, and community theaters, not through professional productions. To prove the point, I asked our staff members where their love for theater began and compiled some of my favorite stories:

 "My absolute favorite movie as a 5-6 year old was Mary Poppins. My mother claims I watched it so many times, she knew when a fly landed on Bert's jacket during 'Step In Time.' Shortly after, I transitioned to watching Sound of Music every day, and quickly wore out the 2-cassette pack. My theory? I wanted to be Julie Andrews."
- Katie Diamond, Graphic & Media Production Coordinator 

 "My first live theater performance was a community theater Christmas pageant at a local school. I clearly remember the ceremony and formality of the family getting dressed in our Sunday best. My mother established early on for us that seeing live performance was a special treat and the occasion itself deserved respect. I remember the magic of Christmas toys coming alive and the absolute charm of meeting the characters after the performance. It was pure wonderment for me to see Raggedy Ann in person and meet her, since she was my most treasured and favorite doll!"
- Alma Malabanan-McGrath, Director of Operations 

"I burned through a number of Rodgers & Hammerstein VHS tapes growing up, but my favorite was The King and I. Whenever the 'Shall We Dance?' scene arrived, my mother and I would polka around the living room (1, 2, 3 AND 1, 2, 3!). Musical theater became more than a viewing experience; it was an active way to spend time together."
- Christina Macchiarola, Marketing & Communications Manager

"My family has these fantastic, old tapes of my father performing in his High School plays. When I was 5 or 6-years-old, I remember putting them in our VHS player on days off from school and worshipping every second - videos of Brigadoon, Hello, Dolly! and The Student Prince held some of his greatest work. It was from watching these tapes that I decided that I wanted to be an actor like my dad (who has since moved on to market analysis)."
- Carolyn Charpie Fagan, Education Programs Manager 

"The Sound of Music was my favorite movie as a child. My grandma had recorded it off of the television, so the copy that I would watch on repeat included commercials from the 80s. When I was a kid I thought that was part of the movie! My favorite character was Liesl and my dream was to dance under a gazebo with a boy."
- Renata Melillo, Education Programs Manager 

There is no one way to develop a love for the arts. We encourage you to visit theaters like the New Victory, continue to take advantage of the resources in your community, support arts education in your schools, and applaud efforts like NBC's that bring the arts to new audiences!

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Hillary Reeves is the Social Media Manager for the New 42nd Street.

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