Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music, review

photo 3

We sent Jess O’Callaghan to check out Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music in Sydney:

Question: Do you know the lyrics to “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”? When someone says they’re sixteen, does your mind kind of start singing that song? If someone calls another person a “clown” do you start to sing “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” quietly? On long bike rides, have you tried to initiate a chorus of “Do Rae Me”?

There is definitely a threshold of liking The Sound of Music you need to hit before I can recommend Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music to you earnestly. Which I am about to do. Do you still laugh when Maria sits on that pinecone? Does anything Gretel does warm your heart?

Look, there is a threshold, but the threshold is LOW. Answer yes to one of these questions and I think you could safely have an excellent time at Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music. There’s something in those first moments of the film, 1300 people singing the “the hills are alive with the sound of music”, arms stretched up to the spectacular ceiling of Sydney’s State Theatre that put a massive smile on my face. That smile stayed there for the whole three hours that followed, right through to the dirty renditions of “Climb Every Mountain” we overheard on the bus ride home.

We arrived at the theatre (dressed as brown paper packages tied up with string) and were directed to look under our seats for a bag full of props – eidelweiss to wave like a lighter, fabric to wave when Maria wants to make clothes for the kids, an invitation to the ball, cards that say flibbertigibbet.

Then there was the costume parade. There were girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. A silver white winter, accompanied by a flower covered child who presumably was spring. Snowflakes. Rays of sun. Cow bells and sleigh bells. A whole children’s choir with their little limbs attached to strings, accompanied by adults puppeteers.

There were a lot of Marias. Travelling Maria, Wedding Maria (who led the theatre in an acapella rendition of “Edelweiss”), Nun Maria, Maria in the blue dress that makes the Captain blush. The baroness who when asked about her costume on stage said ‘Maria will not marry my Georg!’ in a weird, faux German, shrill accent. The baroness in drag.

There were children in curtains, who, when asked if they were really wearing curtains, excitedly answered “Yes! Our Nan’s!” There were children in Von Trapp sailor costumes and others in lederhosen. And the nuns! Oh the nuns. The man with a sign around his neck “When my wife asked which costume I wanted to wear to Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music I said none.” The older woman with sunglasses on under her habit. The stately mother superiors. The nuns one row down from us, drinking lots of wine.

It felt like I had found my people. If there were 1300 people I would be happy to be locked in a theatre for an extended period of time it would be these people. I wanted to hug them all. Even the people dressed as Uncle Max, weirdest character in any musical ever. They were all my friends. They laughed at jokes like “Were you this much trouble at the Abbey?” “Oh much more Sir!” as thought they were hilarious and new. They cheered when the kids are singing “My Favourite Things” very sadly and Maria comes bounding into the back garden.

The singing was so loud and I was grinning so much that I couldn’t really hear myself which was lovely because I am a terrible singer. The words were all there on the screen, so my pride was never tarnished, not even in “Lonely Goatherd” which I used to love knowing all the words to and no longer do.

When Maria and Captain Von Trapp kissed for the first time, everyone let off a party popper. 1300 party poppers going off at once is a very loud, very festive sound. One ridiculous person saved their party popper for the moment when Rolf is pointing a gun at the Captain. They get points for being hilarious but also made me jump a lot.

And the Marias! During “I Have Confidence”, Travelling Maria bounded up and down the aisles, swinging her luggage about and clicking her heels together. When Maria walked down the aisle, so too did Wedding Maria, who looked about in her 80s, and made me laugh till tears came out of my eyes while singing that triumphant wedding version of “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”

The people sitting behind us had been coming for nine years, and they would whisper along in a sort of involuntary way to the dialogue as well as the subtitled songs. I fell in love with them, and would be very happy if in 50 years I had become them.

Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music heads to Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on May 24. Watch out, everyone I know. I’ve become quite evangelical about the restorative powers of a night of singing loudly.

More details of future events can be found on Facebook and on



Review by Jess O’Callaghan. Pictures by Rebecca O’Callaghan.