THE SOUND OF MUSIC, 1965’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, is a movie pretty much anyone with a pulse enjoys. Put it on and even if you’re a cynic, or just temporarily grouchy from parental sleep deprivation, you’ll likely find yourself involuntarily humming along to, or even singing, its irresistibly compelling Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes. It may have been years since you’ve seen it, but admit it, those catchy songs have been lodged in a corner of your brain since your own childhood. That’s not a bad thing. No less a snark than FAMILY GUY’S Seth MacFarlane loves old-fashioned movie musicals, and this is arguably one of the best of the genre.
So go ahead and give in to it. The only way to “solve a problem like Maria” is to indoctrinate your own kids in the way of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
That said, this isn’t a movie every member of the family may be old enough to watch in its entirety. Preschoolers and even elementary-school-age kids in the lower grades do not yet need to know what a Nazi is, or why the Von Trapp Family has to flee Austria during the climax. Fourth & fifth graders to whom you impart a little historical context, and certainly middle- and high-schoolers who’ve had exposure to World War II in social studies, should watch the full film. Parents whose kids are actually in the midst of studying that war may even want to use the movie to open up an at-home discussion about the evils of Fascism; no doubt the musical’s lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein, would have approved. (He was the man who wrote the lyrics to the brilliant anti-racism song, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” in SOUTH PACIFIC). Viewing THE SOUND OF MUSIC with younger kids means showing them the bits and pieces they’ll understand and enjoy the most.
When you’ve got small kids, scene selection is a beautiful thing. It’s why you want to watch this movie on DVD or Blue Ray disc, rather than by streaming it. The main thing to remember is that scenes including children are going to be the most interesting to yours. Today’s kids may not relate to living in a lake-side chateau or having a dad who uses a whistle to communicate with his offspring, but they’ll find something instantly familiar about a pretty young woman teaching a bunch of kids how to sing. “Do-Re-Mi” is a nothing less than the best Circle Time ever captured on screen.
“Do-Re-Mi” is only one of the delightful numbers to which kids invariably respond. Yes, as the song says, “it’s a very good place to start” (and one that’s made for a very popular flash mob video). But after you’ve hooked the kids with that one, here’s a handy list of additional tunes/sequences that are likely to enthrall:
- “My Favorite Things” (Maria calms the kids with this during a nighttime thunderstorm.)
- “The Lonely Goatherd” (That’s the one with the kids putting on a puppet show. Here’s a fun version of it with Julie Andrews on THE MUPPET SHOW.)
- “So Long, Farewell” (This is the song in which all the kids perform a solo and say goodnight.)
- “The Sound of Music” (This is Maria’s solo at the movie’s start — a dazzler photographed in widescreen 70mm ToddAO — but there’s also a later reprise with the Von Trapp kids.)
- “Edelweiss” (Captain Von Trapp sings this with his kids; I found it worked wonders as a lullaby when I sang it to mine.)
Some may also enjoy “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” in which eldest Von Trapp sibling Liesl is courted by her slightly older suitor, but since he proves to be a Nazi, it’s always left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, though it’s a charming number set in and around a gazebo.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC is easily found for purchase, rent, or borrowing at your local library, and you can also DVR the annual TV broadcast of this gem; look for it around Christmas or New Year’s on ABC (and sometimes on cable’s ABC Family). There’s also the more recent TV version with Carrie Underwood (The Sound Of Music Live!, from 2013, which NBC broadcasts around the holidays: it’s got its good points and is worth a look, but I still much prefer the original. Watching THE SOUND OF MUSIC with my kids has proven one of my favorite things. Here’s hoping it proves one of yours.
Adults Should Know: Some historical context is necessary to provide for kids to fully understand the story, though all kids will find much to enjoy even without it. Use scene selection for kids in grades K-3 to show them the most kid-friendly numbers, listed above.
Say & Do: With younger kids, talk about how Maria calms the kids during the storm by encouraging them to think about their “Favorite Things,” and how they can use the same method for calming down when something makes them anxious. With older kids, talk about why Captain Von Trapp doesn’t want to serve the Nazis and why the family flees Austria for neutral Switzerland. With younger kids, you can put on a puppet show like the one in “The Lonely Goatherd.” Buy the soundtrack or original Broadway cast and play it at home, in the car, on long trips; sing together like the Von Trapps, if you feel so bold! “Do Re Mi” is easy for everyone. If you or the kids play instruments, you can buy the sheet music to learn. If you’re in the northeast, visit Stowe, Vermont’s Trapp Family Lodge, founded by the original Von Trapp family, where you can hike, bike, or attend music festivals in summer, or ski in winter.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) Directed by Robert Wise, based on the Broadway musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC with songs by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman; the stage musical’s book is by Howard Linsday & Russell Crouse. With Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer.