October 2010

 

I Do Love a Good Show Tune (part 2)

MFTOct10-2  For any long-term readers of this column (and I’m going back to July 2006 here!), you’ll know The Sound of Music not only provided the name for this part of my website, it also is literally one of my favorite things.

The Sound of Music is the first film I remember going to in a cinema, closely followed by Mary Poppins. You can see I was fated to love musicals, can’t you? And because I started primary school not long after these two phenomenally popular films were released, I spent a large portion of my early education singing songs from both shows.

MFTOct10-3Do kids still sing hits from musicals? Mary Poppins has had a stage revival recently so perhaps it’s returned to popularity. I would be surprised if The Sound of Music ever faded from people’s consciousness.

I think one of the reasons kids love to sing the songs from these two (or at least they did in my day, and doesn’t that make me sound old?) is that both stories feature children as major characters. There’s the seven motherless Von Trapp children in TSOM and the two neglected Banks kids Jane and Michael in MP. Actually now I think about it, these stories are quite similar. Into both unhappy families, an unlikely positive force descends (literally in the case of MP! Although you could also argue that Maria descends from her mountain to that lovely house in Salzburg) and changes things for the better.

MFTOct10-4Anyway, the Campbell childhood was punctuated with out-of-tune renditions of “Feed the Birds” and “Just a Spoonful of Sugar” and “Doh-Re-Mi”. Other popular show tunes of my youth were the theme song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a selection of songs from the 1952 movie with a score by Frank Loesser, Hans Christian Andersen.

This film was enshrined in my home for various reasons, not least because my mother came from a Danish family and HCA is a national hero. But it was also the film my parents saw on the night they became engaged so it was starry eyes galore whenever Hans Christian Andersen showed on TV. It’s many years since I saw it – I have a vague memory of it being rather sad, about the miseries of unrequited love, although both Danny Kaye and the music were wonderful. Anyway, I remember very hot summer terms in Queensland and singing songs like “Inch Worm” and “Thumbelina”.

MFTOct10-1I suspect the songs from Hans Christian Andersen are no longer as popular as they were. In fact, I imagine kids today, if indeed they do sing along to a piano in school, prefer songs from something like The Lion King or The Little Mermaid. That’s not so out of kilter with my own childhood because Mary Poppins was a huge hit for Disney, just as the newer animation films were.

Thanks for sharing this trip down memory lane with me (perhaps even a “Sentimental Journey”? Although that doesn’t seem to be a show tune so doesn’t strictly belong in this column!). Next month, I’m coming back to show tunes – hey, when you’re on a good thing, you should do an encore or two! Ethel Merman would have! – with a piece about the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Pop by to sing along!