I have never seen a musical.

Yes, in my 20-something years of living I have never in my life sat down and watched one. NoGrease,TheRocky Horror Picture Show,FrozenorAnnie. I’ve seenThe Blues Brothers, but that’s different because it’s good. I have, however, dedicated the past decade of my life to a world of punk music.

I may not have as much punk cred in the bank as others, but I’m doing alright for myself. I’ve played in punk bands of all different levels of quality and intensity. I’ve supported some bands like Propagandhi, Dead Kennedys, Guttermouth and Clowns, and I have made more DIY spray-painted CDs than I would care to count. For reference, my three favourite bands are Descendents, Propagandhi and Punch. I am well-acquainted with the short, fast, and loud, is what I am trying to say.

The BRAG’s valiant editor Chris has a sly smile when he tells me he has an article for me to write, before asking if I am familiar with the classic 1965 filmThe Sound Of Music. Of course I am – it’s the famous 1960s film about… hills? and music? I know squat about the film, but I know my mum loves it. Chris informs me thattheSing-Along-A Sound Of Musicshow is coming to Sydney, and there are three tickets with my name on them.

It doesn’t sound like my ideal night out – RVIVR’s Erica Freas is playing at Blackwire, which seems more on my level. But I am up for a challenge, and I’m up for something new. So for good measure I invite my mum and aunt out for the evening, who are both delighted at the idea. Mum (whose three favourite artists are ABBA, Crowded House and Simply Red) and my aunt (ABBA, Dixie Chicks, Norah Jones) catch the train in with me as we head to the bloody majestic State Theatre. I am prepared to face whatever this movie could throw at me.

What I am not prepared for is what can only be described as “lengthy pre-show entertainment”.

The pre-show program starts with a strange woman coming onstage with more positivity and energy than is right for any one person to have – I soon learn she is named Maria, and is the main character of the film. Maria takes us through the props we were given, all of which need to be used at certain times, before leading vocal warm-ups, with a singing call-and-response between her and the audience.

Then come the costume parades. Three of them.

Three costume parades are needed to get through all the people who have dressed up for the evening, and are separated into three categories: Kids (fair enough), Nuns, and ‘Other’. Why do nuns have their own category? Because for some reason, nuns are so important to this movie that roughly 45 different people felt compelled to dress as one, including one actual nun amongst them.

The crowd has the hyped-up energy of a primary school assembly when the lights lower and the movie finally begins.

From the opening line, the crowd (and ‘crowd’ is the best way to describe this audience, because the energy in the room is closer to a gig than a film screening) are 100 per cent committed to the ‘sing-a-long-a’ part of the deal, as a chorus of voices around me tells me that the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music. The lyrics are displayed on the bottom of the screen, but it’s not like the crowd needs it, providing a loud and resonant falsetto to accompany every single note. Many of the audience comes up with their own notes for the songs.

I’m not a film critic, and I’m sure the majority of people are already familiar withThe Sound Of Music. But quickly: Maria is a nun who gets sent away from the Nonnberg Abbey because she doesn’t fit in. She is sent to look after the seven children of an ex-navy captain, a dude who dislikes fun and likes discipline. But thanks to Maria and the power of music, the children and the captain sing and fall in love, and everything is happily ever after. That’s the short version of it, anyway; I’m sure you can watch it and fill in the blanks.

I recognise a few of the songs without ever having seen the movie (mostly ‘Climb Every Mountain’ and ‘My Favourite Things’), and for the most part the tunes are enjoyable. Likewise, I recognise a few scenes from shows likeThe SimpsonsandFamily Guy, finally giving those jokes a bit of context.

The movie holds up great despite its age. I’m not a film buff in the slightest, but I’ve seen worse movies. And I don’t get very bored, despite how long it is (the intermission helps). There’s a few moments that are hilariously outdated, like Max calling the children a bunch of “gloomy pussies”. And I can’t believe it was ever appropriate to describe a 16 (gooooing on 17)-year-old girl as “A blank page for men to write on”.

Finally we are reaching the end of the movie. Everyone is cheering as Maria walks down the aisle (including a real-life woman, dressed as Maria, walking down the aisle of the theatre). People are laughing and cheering and singing, and it is a great happy ending to the film.

Then Nazis happen.

Nazis? That wasn’t the end of the movie? How was I to know that the movie would turn into a war film three-quarters of the way through? There are some mentions of war through the movie (the telegram deliverer shouting “Heil Hitler” out of nowhere was pretty on the nose), but I didn’t think too much of it and now we are knee-deep in an escape film. This is wild.

This is the part of the movie that really draws me in, yet it’s also the time that the audience is getting too comfortable with the audience participation part. Here’s a hint: if an Austrian family is trying to escape persecution from the Nazis, maybe it’s not the best time for you to shout out your best open mic comedy night material.

Finally, the real ending of the film occurs, the lights come up and the nuns and their brown paper bags filter out onto the streets of Sydney. My mum and aunt are giggling and singing away, still wrapped up in the moment. They had a great time. They’ve even started planning a homemade Sing-A-Long-AGreaseshow.

To be honest, I’ve had worse nights. I’ve seen some shitty bands at some shitty pubs and would probably rather go through this again. If you’re a fan ofThe Sound Of Musicthe sing-along experience is an absolute must, because it’s created just for you… or for people who have a intensely passionate desire to be a fish out of water.

Sing-Along-A Sound Of Music played at the State Theatre on Friday February 27 and Saturday February 28.

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