Sing along to The Sound of Music for Easter … in English!

When Shirley Nadeau read that a sing-along version of the Sound of Music was being screened at the Théàtre Petit Champlain last December, she rallied the troops and rented several nun costumes!

She was dreaming of singing along to The Sound of Music and Maria with a room full of fans of the world famous musical starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Richard Haydn.

Nadeau was completely unaware that the 1965 classic, known as La Mélodie du Bonheur, was so popular in Quebec – and that folks here sing the same much-loved songs penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but in French.

“I’d seen the posters up in different places, but I thought it was just the movie. It wasn’t until I saw the article in the Chronicle-Telegraph that I thought, ‘That would be fun!’”

The evening, similar to – but not as rowdy as – the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show happenings, begins with a warm-up for the costumed choristers, a rousing rendition of some of the songs, an explanation of the objects contained in the surprise bag, a costume parade, and a screening of the film, with song subtitles, where everyone is encouraged to sing nice and loud. The evening lasts three to four hours.

Her hopes were dashed when she called the theatre and found out that the event was happening completely in French!
“I had rented costumes for three people,” said Nadeau, “and there were many others who expressed an interest and said that they would go. It was between Christmas and New Year’s so people were away.”

Despite the time of year, Nadeau’s email had managed to pique the interest of a dozen people. “I sent a message out to everybody in the Quebec Art Company,” she said.

But the French evening would not have done the trick – even with the lyrics bouncing across the screen. “It’s like karaoke. You want to sing the familiar words,” she explained.

Always the optimist, Nadeau said that she had surprised a gentleman at the theatre when she inquired about an English-sing-along version of Chante-toi aussi La Mélodie du Bonheur. She was told that if enough people signed up, an English-singing evening would be a possibility the next time around.

“He sounded pretty positive that he’d be redoing the event over the Easter weekend,” said Nadeau, who has her fingers crossed.

Théâtre Petit Champlain communications assistant Julie Garneau confirmed Tuesday that an English sing- along to The Sound of Music has been slated for Thursday, March 20 at 8 p.m. Host Bertrand Alain will introduce the evening and warm up the crowd in English and French before the film is screened in English. Two other French shows are set to go on the following Saturday to respond to the overwhelming demand.

When the theatre launched the show, there were very few requests for an English evening. One request came from the Château Frontenac’s concierge, who thought the activity would interest groups.

While the demand for English was not enough to warrant a presentation in December, Quebec City residents flocked to the six presentations over the Christmas holidays. “People were really great. They took time to make elaborate costumes or to rent them.”

When asked about the movie’s huge appeal, Garneau said, “It’s a beautiful family story, a love story. The songs are catchy and memorable. The story is comforting. It’s touching — it reminds people of childhood memories and allows them to relive the history of the von Trapp family.”

The Théâtre Petit Champlain decided to give the idea a shot after seeing its huge appeal in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

The theatre bought the rights to the Sound of Music show from the UK’s Sing-Along-A, which also carries Rocky Horror Picture Show, Annie, and shows featuring the songs of ABBA and Elvis.

Quebec City’s premier production of a sing-along Sound of Music hit the perfect note with audiences. “We have no regrets,” she said. “It brings people together.” Garneau said that the response was “far better than we had hoped.”
In light of this development, Shirley Nadeau has her work cut out. In an interview Monday evening she said, “I’ll get the word out and encourage people to reserve! It sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve seen stories on television about it. One woman went dressed as a brown paper package tied up in string. You can be any of the characters or objects.”
Those costumes are only a phone call away. “I can lay my hands on at least 15 nun costumes,” she said, thanks to a choir to which she once belonged that once performed songs from the film Sister Act starring Whoopie Goldberg.
Tickets for the sing-along to The Sound of Music are $20 and are available through the Théâtre Petit Champlain box office by calling 692-2631. Group rates are also available.