The hills were alive with The Sound of Music in the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City on this day. That was when Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic Broadway musical opened with Mary Martin playing Maria von Trapp.
The show was based on the real-life experiences of a would-be nun who would become the governess to Captain von Trapp’s large family. Maria von Trapp had published her memoir in 1949. Two non-fiction films were made based on a memoir in Germany featuring the family’s folk singing skills.
The story was fictionalized by turning the Captain into a stern taskmaster whose children were badly in need of love and understanding. Their father was still grieving for the loss of his wife. The actual captain was not so stern.
The memoir was a bestseller. People knew the story well, and word got around. $2 million in advance tickets were sold before opening night.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were experienced in the ways of Broadway. They knew there was no way the show would work if it stuck to folk singing. So they set to work, creating some of the most beloved songs ever written–”My Favorite Things” “Edelweiss,” “Maria,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and, of course, “The Sound of Music.”
Opening night was packed with jaded reviewers, who didn’t much like the show and panned it. But the producers were delighted at the audience reaction that second night. These ordinary attendees loved it. When Mary Martin began singing, the audience was mesmerized.