The Sound of Music (1959) is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Many songs from the musical have become standards, such as “Edelweiss”, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and the title song “The Sound of Music”.
The original Broadway production, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel, opened on November 16, 1959; the original London production opened at The Palace Theatre on May 18, 1961 starring Jean Bayless and Roger Dann. The show has enjoyed numerous productions and revivals since then. It was adapted as a 1965 film musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, which won five Academy Awards. The Sound of Music was the final musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein; Hammerstein died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere.
After viewing The Trapp Family, a 1956 West German film about the von Trapp family, and its 1958 sequel (Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika), stage director Vincent J. Donehue thought that the project would be perfect for his friend Mary Martin; Broadway producers Leland Hayward and Richard Halliday (Martin’s husband) agreed. The producers originally envisioned a non-musical play that would be written by Lindsay and Crouse and that would feature songs from the repertoire of the Trapp Family Singers. Then they decided to add an original song or two, perhaps by Rodgers and Hammerstein. But it was soon agreed that the project should feature all new songs and be a musical rather than a play.
Details of the history of the von Trapp family were altered for the musical. The real Georg Ludwig von Trapp did live with his family in a villa in Aigen, a suburb of Salzburg, and Maria von Trapp (born Maria Augusta Kutschera) had been sent to be a tutor to one of the children. Lindsey and Crouse altered the story so that Maria was governess to all of them. The names and ages of the children were also altered, as was Maria’s original surname (the show used “Rainer” instead of “Kutschera”). The von Trapps spent some years in Austria after Maria and the Captain married and was offered a commission to Germany’s navy. Since Von Trapp opposed the Nazis by that time the family left Austria after the Anschluss, they went by train to Italy and then traveled to London and the United States. To make the story more dramatic, Lindsey and Crouse had the family, soon after Maria’s and the Captain’s wedding, escape over the mountains to Switzerland on foot.