Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Will the real Von Trapp please stand up

This is off my usual beaten track, my usual beaten track being Schubert and Hugo Wolf, but I have been listening to the soundtrack to the Broadway musical "The Sound of Music." It has Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. There is some kind of anniversary. Fifty years or something. Who knows.

What I am realizing is I prefer Theodore Bikel to Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp.

Theodore Bikel owns that role!

There he is up above, with Maria and all the Kinder. Here he is with Maria.

Theodore Bikel loved playing Captain von Trapp. That is, ahem, what he told me. I interviewed him a few years ago. The down side of that is, I was really stressed out and out of it because I had three interviews scheduled that day. The interview with Theodore Bikel was the third, and it was so disastrous that it had a lasting effect on me: I instituted the Theodore Bikel Rule which I still follow. It is not to schedule more than one interview in one day.

But Theodore Bikel was gracious to me in spite of me not having done my homework. Not exactly "nice," but gracious.

One thing he told me was that once when they were all out eating, Richard Rodgers kept getting up and bowing whenever the sound system played one of his songs. He says Rodgers was bowing every five minutes.

Another thing was that Rodgers came up with "Edelweiss" at the absolute last minute. He felt the show needed that one song to anchor it. I read that the same thing happened with Andrew Lloyd Webber and "Evita." He felt it needed that special something. So at the last minute he wrote "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."

These signature songs, they were last-minute additions!

Anyway, Theodore Bikel further confided to me that "Edelweiss" was kind of a tough thing for him to swallow because being Jewish he had no great love for Austria, because of Austria's history of anti-Semitism. So it was goofy that at the last minute Richard Rodgers comes running up to him with this song.

Now whenever I hear this "Edelweiss" I keep thinking of my little heart-to-heart with Theodore Bikel. I still have it on tape somewhere. He also told me though that even though he had reservations about things like "Edelweiss," he loved playing Captain von Trapp, and he would have liked to have played it in the movie. Especially as the role went to Christopher Plummer who was vocal about not liking it.

Christopher Plummer ...

... what a snippy pain!

Theodore Bikel told me that the trouble was, he and Mary Martin were a kind of matched set. She was too old to play Maria in the movie so they had to get a new Maria. And that meant he had to go too.

That is too bad! Theodore Bikel would have been better in the movie than Plummer as Captain von Trapp. Bikel had that adorable German accent. He once played a Nazi in "The African Queen." And he looks good, too. Admit it.

Theodore Bikel owned that role.

He and Mary Martin sang this song "An Ordinary Couple" which was not in the movie. In the movie, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer sang "Something Good."

"Something Good" is better.

But still.


  1. Mary did Theodore Bikel explain the difference between Tavie, and Zobra to you?

  2. Very interesting blog. I have the OBS to The Sound of Music; I should pay more attention to Theodore Bikel. Christopher Plummer just sticks out in my mind, but obviously the film is more familiar. Christopher Plummer, wonderful stage actor, and he did the film justice, I think. It's too bad that they replaced his vocals in the songs at the last ... Read Moreminute. The demo recordings aren't that bad. I'd love to see the difference in character between Plummer and Bikel. Plummer's 'Captain' only intimidates me until they sit down for dinner. After that, you can see Maria is getting to him and he lets his guard down a little too quickly. I took The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, and it was so entertaining! I highly recommend it! (You learn so many new facts and trivia about the film and the actors!)