I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am

[Warning: jumbo post alert. But this is about Julie Andrews, among other things, so I must be forgiven.]

We are all of us preparing around the house for a very important family event later in the week. Thanksgiving? Naaaaaw. I mean, that’ll be wonderful, sitting around a long table with our extended family, feeling warmed in the bosom of our mutual love and understanding, reflecting on the many blessings for which we each feel grateful. Don’t get me wrong; it’s one of my most favorite holidays. Even after becoming a vegetarian, which puts a decided kink in it.

But no. I’m not talking about Thanksgiving. I’m talking about the one, the only, the SING-ALONG SOUND OF MUSIC, people. And it’s coming to the Castro Theater. It bears noting, for those not familiar with San Francisco, that the Castro Theater is a grand dame 1920s movie palace, among a handful in the country built back then and still screening pictures. It’s home to one of the Bay Area’s few remaining Mighty Wurlitzer organs, which is in constant use (they play a rousing version of “San Francisco” before weekend shows, if memory serves, and definitely use it to accompany silent films, etc.).

And it’s smack-dab in the gay people part of town.

This aspect of its locale was lost on me when, as a kid, I used to go with my pops and my sister to catch various “old timey” movies playing there in repertory. We three would go to The City (always capitalized, according to local custom) to the Gateway Cinema, or the Richlieu, or the Castro, to watch the films my dad thrilled to as a youth. Usually they were musicals, and we saw them all: Astaire and Rogers, Kelly and Charisse. I would traipse or swashbuckle my way back to the car, usually imagining myself to be the male lead. (What? Doesn’t everyone?)

When we were kids, I never really noticed much about who else was in the neighborhood of the Castro Theater. The only thing I remember was that Dad would insist we all dress up nicely, and I was irritated by the bother. He maintained that one always dressed up to go to The City. Now that I know a bit more about my dad’s circuitous path to my mom, I rather wonder whether it was more like one always dressed up to go to The Castro. Ah, but that’s another story for another day.

This weekend, Sing-along Sound of Music-goers will be dressed up, alright — as Mother Superior; as Kurt, Brigita, Liesel, and whomever; as “Tea with Jam and Bread” or even “Schnitzel with Noodles.” It’s part of the tradition, dating back to the origin of this particular Sing-Along at London’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1999. I fully expect the whole retinue of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the San Francisco shows this weekend, but they may not make the Friday matinee showing that we’ll be attending (along with queer families by the dozen — we can thank local groups the Mamas and Papas and Our Family Coalition for organizing that).

Our own family may not have our shizzy together enough to get dressed up (I know; I know: “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes.” But imagine my horror during the subway ride there and back. Plus blue is not my color.). I do know, however, that the lil’ monkey will be ready for the singing parts. I know this because it had to be six months or a year ago that I heard her quietly, even distractedly singing, from the back seat of the car, “And underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair.” See, she doesn’t watch TV per se, but we do let her watch a select batch of film classics featuring Julie Andrews. What else do you expect of the child of lesbians? Also, she needed to be prepared for our annual family tradition, the Vernal Equinox High-Speed, Three-Act, Sing-Along Sound of Music Puppet Show.

We launched this as an annual tradition while the monkey was in utero, back when we lived solo (i.e. not quasi-communally w/ the bro-in-law’s family). At the time, I thought: we need to get us some family traditions going on, and what better than organizing them around a major Pagan holiday! And what better event than a puppet show! That’s the ticket! And why not start doing it early, before the first kid is even born, so we can work out the kinks by the time s/he actually gets old enough to notice the production values? I didn’t even know that there was an actual, in-the-movie-houses Sound of Music sing along; I just worked through a logical process: what musical has a kid-friendly plot line that I can get behind, and a bunch of songs that even grown-ups would remember and be able to sing to?

Oh, and one other detail: the musical had to have Julie Andrews in it.

All you lesbians reading this will understand how crucial it is, the Julie Andrews factor. It’s all so self-evident: Luminous beauty and sumptuous voice; moxie for days and gumption to spare, etc. (Hey, I just realized: this must be why I love my beloved so! Substitute a Minnesota accent for the British one, and a dark, Mediterranean-ish look for the peaches and cream Brit one, and — poof! there she is! Underneath her wimple she’s got Baba in her hair!) But back to Dame Julie. I welcome further musings about why it is that so many of us love her, but we do. I know it in my heart, plus Wikipedia says so. Heck, Julie even knows it. If she didn’t before, she did after she watched Maile Flanagan’s One Woman Sound of Music in Minneapolis in the 1990s. In her show, Flannagan cruises through all the characters and the entire plot in 50 minutes. Needless to say, the nuns are lesbians and Liesel is a bisexual gal. Rumor had it that Andrews, in town for Victor/Victoria, snuck in and watched the show and loved it.

Our Vernal Equinox High-Speed, Three-Act, Sing-Along Sound of Music Puppet Show doesn’t feature lesbian nuns, which is a surprise, since the Mother OutLaw, quite the lesbian and quite the playwright, did the adaptation (familial nickname key here). A very liberal adaptation, I should note. All the irreverent anti-authoritarianism remains from the original film, and the anti-fascism. But the edges of characters and plot details are rammed together for maximum madcap effect. It had to be rammed, if it was to fit into a 20-30 minute show. Remember, she was writing to accomodate the average adult attention span, which we all know is 20 minutes, max. (Which reminds me: Hey you! In the back there! Wake up and get back to the blog!)

Here’s a snippit of script from our unauthorized Puppet Show version:


Oh dear, Maria is missing from the Abbey again!


“How do you solve a problem like Maria….etc. ” (THE AUDIENCE SINGS ALONG)


(RUNNING IN AS THE SELECTION ENDS) I’m so sorry, Mother Superior. The hills were beckoning, the sky was so blue, the hills were so green and I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am. It’s terrible!


Maria, it seems to be the will of God that you leave us…


Please don’t send me away!


There’s a man — Captain Von Trapp, he’s a fine, brave man. He needs a governess to take care of his seven children….




It’s difficult.


Why difficult, Mother Superior?


The Lord will show you in his own good time. (SHE LEAVES. THE SIGN AND CROSS ARE REMOVED FROM THE SET.)


What’s the matter with me? Why am I so scared?


“I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again. Besides which you see, I have confidence in me.”



Oh, help!

And so it goes. The Know-It-All-Brother-In-Law and I do the puppets, and whatever kids who wish to help out with the set design and prop wrangling. Of course there’s an accordion (played by the inimitable Gramma Skye). The Mother OutLaw, her esteemed partner, and sundry other conscrips read the dialog. The beloved, of course, sings the part of Maria. We invite the block, and everyone we know who has kids or is a kid at heart or even kids or jokes once in a while. The credo of the event: To make family out of community, and community out of family.

Which is what the Sing-Along movie is probably going to do, at least for ninety minutes. Heck, it’s what Thanksgiving is about, at least for one night. At its best, it’s what I try to do with this blog, for however long it takes you to read it, and the babbling brook of comments that sustains it and keeps it from being a solipsistic monolog. Now, I bid you so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good bye! I have to go find me some brown paper packaging tied up with string.

[Bonus fun: The IMDB Sound of Music trivia page, where you’ll learn stuff like, Christopher Plumber “likened working with Julie Andrews to ‘being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.'”]

14 thoughts on “I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am”

  1. Hi Polly! I finally figured out how to get a WordPress account !

    I am such an avid reader of your blog. And I had to comment on this post… it’s hilarious. I LOVE Sound of Music. Might have to check that out this weekend… 🙂

    Your blog is one of my favorite things.

  2. That settles it.

    Some time in the next 10-ish years, we are going to have to travel to the Bay Area over Thanksgiving. I must see this puppet show.

    When I was a wee little monkey, my 2 best friends and I subjected our poor families to a reenactment of either The Sound of Music or The Fiddler on the Roof every single weekend. I can still sing them — appallingly badly — as a medley. (Naturally we never had *actual* copies of the words.)

  3. Julie. Yum.
    So, I remember the firsts go-around of Seven’s love for Sound of Music. One night we were all (this was pre Big) sitting in bed and watching as it was nearing bedtime; some tension in the air about exactly WHEN that would be and exactly HOW MUCH of the show would be allowed viewing at that time. . . . We get to one of my favorite songs (the yodeling puppet show) and she throws a complete fit.

    But we couldn’t get our hands around it. Was she upset that I liked a particular song? Did she not want to hear my favorite song, or share that with me? We just couldn’t figure this out because it was so unlike her. But we continued on this line of thought.

    I can’t remember exactly how we figured it out, but at long last, she told us or we realized that the reason she didn’t want The Yodel Song was because it preceeded the Intermission and, to her, that meant The End.

  4. aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh julie andrews. check and double check.
    dress up for the city. check. (lifesavers in tow for the ride)
    more about julie: well there are the rumors. you know. there is the skin hair thing. there is the poise.
    but i think what gets me every time is the singing in this movie during the puppet show they put on. i daresay operatic, spine-tingling, vertabrae-aligning, etc.
    that wins me over. every time.
    ps. plummer also hated all the kids, rumor has it

  5. How lovely!

    I spent about six months watching The Sound of Music every day after school – when I was thirteen. I’ve never made it to a Sing-a-Long, even though its happened in Brighton lots of times. Next time I’ll take the kids. You’ve inspired me.

  6. Vilkommen, bienvenue, welcome, Sister Julia! A hale and hearty hello! If you make the Friday matinee showing, we might see you there! The lil’ monkey decided she’s going to be a bee! (“…when the bee stings”!). Practical little bugger, recycling the Halloween get-up.

    And Liza, you and yours are most welcome any time. Since our Puppet Show is a Vernal Equinox thingy, you have some time to save up for next spring’s trip. One day, when we’re done being wupped by the infant+toddler thing (you know, all relaxed wih the toddler+kid thing, or the kid+’tween thing, or what have you), we’re going to add on an Autumnal Equinox dealie. You can imagine what other Julie Andrews vehicle will be featured. The Mother OutLaw has already done the script, and I have lots of prop ideas. Just not the time to implement them.

    Ah, giddings. I feel for your Seven. High on a hill was a lonely goat herd, etc. She is in good company. I offer exhibit A, in the person of Sound of Music-o-phile Gwen Stefani:

    “Some people are freaked out by that yodel,” Stefani confides. “Either people get it or they don’t. But I’ve always had the fantasy of putting The Sound of Music to a beat. I used to quote all the songs like a geek!” (More here, if you must.)

    Directorgrrl: what a cad, that man. I would love to be hit on the head with that kind of valentine daily. And who couldn’t love those kids. Even if one of them gained so much weight over the course of the filming that they had to use a body double in the final scene where he’s carrying her up over the alp into Switzerland.

    AllieG: you must! This thing comes from your shores! I’ll file a full report after we go, but I’m fully expecting it’s a MUST SEE.

    Now back to the grueling training regime:

  7. Polly, were you still in Minneapolis when Maile Flanagan did the One Woman Sound of Music at the Bryant Lake Bowl? Oh my god…all these years later I can still say without a doubt that her show was the most hilarious thing I have ever seen!

  8. I totally was, and I agree: funniest thing I ever saw; laughed so hard I think I peed. My only regret was that I wasn’t there on the alleged Julie Andrews night. Do you know anyone who can confirm or deny the rumor?

  9. Well so Vikki: I swear, at the time, I heard a rumor that JA her own bad self found out that there was this hilarious “One Woman Sound of Music” running in town, while she was at the State Theater or wherever touring the stage version of Victor/Victoria. And one night (maybe in cognito? or not?) she slipped in and caught Maile’s show. And loved it.

    I heard this, I think, when I was quipping to someone, “I hope for Maile’s sake Julie Andrews doesn’t find out what she’s doing at the other end of town. She’s gonna get in trouuuuuuuuuuuble….” And then someone said, “She does!”

    Now I’m going to have to send out sleuths to research this…

    And Liza: yeah, lonely schmonely. It is for reasons such as this, I feel, that one must stay abreast of pop culture. She did something similar to Fiddler on the Roof (“If I were a rich girl”). But I can’t really post that until I write about the musical. Fortunately, the beloved is considering it for her youth musical theater co. next fall.

  10. Oh dear… why did I come here? Oh, to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and the payback I get is having the Sound of Music stuck in my head for probably the rest of the long weekend. I’m prone to getting those songs in my head frequently without help from anyone!!

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