It's the new black.
This December, NBC will feature a (capitalist-driven, ill-advised, awful-looking) live(!) version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s beloved classic, The Sound of Music. Premiering on Broadway in 1959 with an Oscar-winning 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, the musical is a veritable institution, with songs and tropes that have works their way into our cultural lexicon. Who can’t name “My Favorite Things” or pretend to dance the Ländler? And who can’t help but draw the connections between the von Trapp story and Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Fran Drescher in The Nanny, and Tony Micelli in Who’s the Boss? It’s only natural.
Fair warning: the 2013 remake features American Idol winner and country music star Carrie Underwood as Maria Ranier, and True Blood’s Stephen Moyer as Captain von Trapp, about which many—I—have reservations. Strong reservations. Notwithstanding the fact that I think the film, alongside Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and Anchorman, can never be remade, the casting already seems…precarious. There are, however, several lingering questions from the original film that have kept me in suspense since my first viewing decades ago. To avoid having this program descend to the level of Kelsey Grammer’s A Christmas Carol, answering or expanding upon some of these queries might be the way to go. Producers: take note.
1.) Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start): the titular song, “The Sound of Music.” I always assumed, and I felt it was implied, that Maria was so inspired by the mountains that she made up that song, then teaching it to the children von Trapp. The Captain knows the song how?
2.) Singing is not allowed in the Abbey. And yet the nuns sing about Maria’s flaws (which include singing in the Abbey), and the Mother Superior has big number in the second act. Clarify convent protocol.
3.) Why would you ever think that sending a childish, rule-breaking postulant to be a governess—aka an adult—to seven children is a good idea? I mean, over the course of trying to curb Maria’s flights of fancy, who came up with the “make her someone else’s problem” idea? Sister Berthe?
4.) Continuing on this same note, one sister remarks the following about Maria: “When I’m with her, I’m confused, out-of-focus and bemused, and I never know exactly where I am.” Is it possible that said nun is having a stroke? Or going through menopause?
5.) Does Marta get that pink parasol for her birthday on Tuesday? Or is that request neglected, much like Marta?
6.) Are pinecones extra sturdy in Austria? However light Maria may be, I would have expected that thing to crunch.
7.) Drape-to-clothing tutorial, please.
8.) Regarding Rolf: he is a narc. Was he also the inspiration for a latter-day Christmas spy, the elf-on-the-shelf?
9.) When Liesel sings to Rolf, “I need someone older and wiser telling me what to do”; is she flattering his ego or does she really support mansplaining?
10.) Regarding Louisa and climbing with the jar of spiders: pics or it didn’t happen.
11.) Does Captain von Trapp wear a tie to bed? Seriously, I need a bedroom scene to confirm or deny this. Preferably starring Christopher Plummer circa 1965, but whatever works.
12.) “Fa, a long long way to run” only makes sense if your accent is British or Bostonian. They’re Austrian. Explain.
13.) Uncle Max is gay. Expand. How was life for him in the Weimar Republic? And how does he dodge the Third Reich? Does he find happiness? Does he live with Elsa, a Jack McFarland to her Karen Walker?
14.) Why is no one more alarmed by a goatherd that yodels in 5 octaves? Is this behavior native to Austria or to the Austro-Hungry region? Are there German yodeling goats as well? And the “soon their duet will become a trio” line—is this reproductive education in central Europe?
15.) Re: Climb Every Mountain: did Maria realize that this advice from the Mother Superior was literal rather than figurative? “Climb how many?” “Every one until you get to America!”
16.) How did Gretel cut her finger on Friedrich’s teeth?
17.) I may be 12…but how did the Captain keep such a stern façade with the name Georg? I’m sure Max found it funny.
18.) Did Maria pick out her own wedding music? Or was this the nun’s parting shot—reminding the Captain of everything he’s getting himself into?
19.) Why don’t we give Fräulein Schweiger her own film instead of this remake? She’s make a great reality TV star—like Susan Boyle.
20.) How DO you solve a problem like Maria?