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Behind 'The Sound of Music' in Antwerp Train Station
The Story Behind the Stunt
You've probably seen the video of "The Sound of Music" flash mob in the Antwerp Train Station. If you haven't, scroll down to watch. It's great fun. But what's the story behind the stunt?
I'm a compulsive researcher, and I can't pass up a viral video like this without wanting to know more. Who are these people? What put them up to this? Why "The Sound of Music"? I didn't find all the answers, but I learned some interesting things!
First, this stunt is indirectly the fault of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Broadway genius behind Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Below, I'll explain why.
Second, I learned the story of the real Maria von Trapp. I vaguely knew that the Singing von Trapps were a real family, but I didn't know which parts of The Sound of Music were true.
But wait, let's watch that video again!
The Sound of Music in Antwerp Train Station
So, Who Are These People?!
It HAD to Be Staged. The Question Is -- By Whom, And Why?
Clicking through to the video's description reveals that these 200+ dancers were part of "a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role in the musical of 'The Sound of Music.'"
I'm not sure who they were. If they're part of the production company putting on the musical, you'd think they'd already have a lead. But at least that gives us a clue about why.
In 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber staged a production of The Sound of Music at the London Palladium Theater. To find his Maria, he produced a reality TV show called How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? It was a hit -- both the reality TV show and the London musical. In 2008, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria (Canada) brought a new Maria and Andrew Lloyd Webber's production to Toronto. In 2008, the Netherlands' Efteling Theater used the Dutch TV show "In search..." to find their Maria. And in 2009 -- you guessed it! -- a new Antwerp production of The Sound of Music chose their Maria via the reality TV show Op zoek naar Maria, "The Search For Maria," airing on VTM, a Belgian television station.
The Antwerp Train Station Sound of Music was staged by VTM two days before the premiere of Op zoek naar Maria. The video created an instant stir, not just in Belgium, but all over the internet! So now we've got a viral video promoting a reality TV show that was promoting a modern musical revival of a 60s musical based on a true story about a family who staged musicals...is your head spinning yet?
The winner of the Op zoek naar Maria talent show, Deborah de Ridder, became an instant celebrity and began her run as Antwerp's Maria on August 20, 2009. The show runs into summer 2010.
There's a funny side effect to the Antwerp Train Station Sound of Music video. It's so popular that if you search for "Antwerp Sound of Music," you'll only find references to the stunt. I have yet to track down the official website for the theater production it was promoting!
The Finalists for "Op zoek naar Maria"
I'm not sure 100% sure which of these is Deborah de Ridder-- I think she's the one in light blue-- but this is a fun production of "My Favorite Things"! From a Playlist showing many of the finalists' performances.
The Real Maria von Trapp
Who was the real Maria von Trapp? I'd almost forgotten that "The Sound of Music" was based on a true story.
Maria von Trapp really was an Austrian nun who became a governess for the von Trapp family. In fact, she was hired to look after only one of the children, Maria, gravely ill from scarlet fever which had also claimed their mother. Their father, WWI war hero Georg von Trapp, eventually fell in love with the elder Maria and asked her to be "a second mother to his children [*]. He was not a harsh and aloof father as the musical portrayed him. The von Trapps were already a musical family, but Maria taught them madrigals and talked Georg into marketing the family's talent in public performances after the Depression claimed most of his fortune. They did flee the Nazis -- by train, not over the mountains -- went to Italy, not Switzerland, and immigrated to America. They toured successfully as the Von Trapp Family Singers. Little of the money from the popular musical and movie reached the von Trapps, but Maria seemed satisfied:
''The great good the film and the play are doing to individual lives is far beyond money,'' she said in an interview with The New York Times shortly after the film's release. ''There seems to be so much despair in the world. But so many people write about how much the film has helped them in restoring their confidence in God.'' -- Source: Maria von Trapp's 1987 obituary in The New York Times
However, she did complain that Julie Andrews and Mary Martin, the woman who portrayed her in the original Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, "were too gentle-- like girls out of Bryn Mawr." (Source: "The Real Story of the von Trapp Family," Washington National Archives, which is the source of the above photo). As a Bryn Mawr alumna myself-- as was Kate Hepburn, by the way! -- I'm amused.
Okay, history lesson over! Let's watch some more fun videos. I'm sure Maria von Trapp would approve of spreading joy through music!
Books by the von Trapp family
Maria von Trapp penned several books about about her family, her faith, and the music. (Titles without photos are used editions)
The second book penned by two of her daughters, Maria and Georgia, and includes a CD of songs.
New Zealand Train Station's Sound of Music - An homage to the Sound of Music in Antwerp Train Station
In July 2009, the students of Tawa College, Wellington, NZ staged another Sound of Music Train Station performance. So now we've got student musicals of a... prank!
I hope you've enjoyed this search for the roots of a viral video as much as I did. It just proves that no matter what you stumble across, you can usually learn something if you look-- although what you find may be the answer to a different question!