Sunday, December 08, 2013

Memories Are Made of This

On Thursday NBC aired a three-hour live broadcast of "The Sound of Music". Carrie Underwood (who seemed quite the favorite of Simon Cowell when she appeared on American Idol) played the role of Maria, sending shockwaves through an entire community of Julie Andrews' fans. Not surprising that a number of critics, my daughters included, did not think much of her or the production in general. I quite enjoyed it, in part because I was just a little tired of Julie Andrews. Good, yes, but in need of a refresh.  My restless brain, or what passes for one, went back maybe sixty years to the Billy Cotton Band Show, a radio program we always listened to after Sunday lunch. It was a kind of cockney Lawrence Welk show, always introduced by Billy's trademark call of "Wakey wakey!" You can get a taste of the experience in this clip. I wonder how many other people remember his Sunday show? I also remember he frequently had a trio of guests, always introduced as Ted and Barbara Andrews and their little daughter Julie. Perhaps if I spent more time I could unearth this on YouTube. I did, however, find a duet starring Ted and Julie. She was 13 at the time, just the age of a newer singing sensation, Jackie Evancho.

Now my brain moves laterally to a pro-duction of this musical in which I was more intimately involved. The St. Ambrose Community Players' production in 1979. I was stage manager and my daughter Kate played Brigitta in half the performances. I truly believe this was a phenomenal theatre group. We had a gifted director who undertook several productions and the actors were members of the church with varying degrees of skill—but loads of enthusiasm.  We did allow the occasional outsider—we got our Maria from outside the parish—and in this production the Mother Superior came to us from a neighboring parish and one of our most tuneful nuns was jewish. I had never stage managed before and the whole job was harder because we moved from our little wooden hall to a real theatre with curtains and flies and what have you. But we did it . . . and a lot of fun it was.

My brain flits around, doesn't it? But if NBC wants to do a production of Oklahoma next year, I can teach them a lot about making costumes on the cheap.

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