A&E » Arts

The Liesl phenomenon


WHAT: Sing-A-Long Sound of Music

WHERE: Rainbow Theatre

WHEN: April 11, 7 p.m.

Everyone knows the story. Everyone knows the words to the songs. And some people even look like the words to the songs.

The Sound of Music has touched every generation since the film’s release in 1965. Now the Sing-A-Long Sound of Music is creating a phenomenon of its own.

"Sing-a-long is sacrilegious, irreverent, but really fun. It’s one of the most fun evenings you’ll ever have in a theatre," says Charmian Carr.

Carr played Liesl in the movie. She was chosen over Lesley-Ann Warren and Patty Duke, among others, for the role. And for two years she toured with the film, promoting it as it debuted around the world.

During that tour she met a woman in Cardiff, Wales who had seen The Sound of Music 80 times in its first two years of release, and a man who had seen the film so many times he was allowed to purchase his seat from the theatre.

Carr made only one more film, a 1967 production for ABC Television called Evening Primrose, which also starred Anthony Perkins, and then left the film business to raise her family. But in 1998 she was approached by writer Jean Strauss, who encouraged her to write about her Sound of Music experience. Forever Liesl, A Memoir of The Sound of Music, was published last year. Then Carr went on tour with the book and discovered how much The Sound of Music still resonated with people.

"I’ve always been happy to be in the film but never really proud – until I met all these people on the book tour," Carr said when she was in Whistler recently.

The tour spawned a second book, Letters to Liesl, which was published earlier this year.

The first book also led to Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, which will be in Whistler next week for one screening, with proceeds going to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club and the Moving Chords Youth Show Choir.

Sing-A-Long Sound of Music is produced by Tom Lightburn, who is a part-time Whistler resident. The show has attracted a Rocky Horror Picture Show-type of following, with audience members dressing up as characters and even lyrics. Carr says there was an extremely tall man at a screening in Philadelphia who was dressed all in silver, with a big loop on his head. He dragged a ball of string behind him – a needle pulling thread.

Public enthusiasm for The Sound of Music still spans generations. On her first book tour Carr met grandparents who were fans and she met teenagers who were named Liesl after the character in the movie. People told her of playing Sound of Music songs at baby births and to comfort terminally ill patients.

"Even four year olds know the songs," she says. She has a list of reasons why the Sound of Music remains so popular:

• It’s based on the true story of the von Trapp family;

• The Rodgers and Hammerstein score was one of the best ever, with songs people can remember and sing. "People like to sing, it’s good therapy," Carr adds;

• There was a character for each age group to identify with;

• It was made in Salzburg, so it was authentic;

• Technically the film was nearly perfect. It doesn’t look aged.

Carr now lives in Encino, California where she has a successful interior design business. Among her clients is Michael Jackson.

"Michael Jackson hired me because I was Liesl," Carr says. "He has a 35 mm print of the film and he told me whenever he’s depressed he watches the film."

The Sing-A-Long Sound of Music in Whistler next week should be uplifting as well. People are encouraged to go in costume, and of course to sing-along. There will be prizes for the best costumes.

Advance tickets are available from Nesters, the ski club cabin, Whistler Housing Authority and Rogers Chocolates. Tickets may be available at the theatre on April 11, starting at 6 p.m.

Add a comment