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The Hills Are Alive

December 31, 2008

Just like midnight screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sing Along Sound of Music has become an international cultural institution over the past few years. From the bags of silly props that can't be seen in the dark like a card with a question mark which you're meant to hold up during the lyric "how do you solve a problem like Maria?" and fake flowers to wave during "Eidelweiss", to the fancy dress contest before the film starts, the Sing Along experience basically follows the same formula all over the world.

It's interesting to read reports of Sing Along screenings in different cities and compare them to the one I experienced a couple of evenings ago in San Francisco. Despite the fact that the audiences are different each night, the evening seems to unfold in a startlingly similar way wherever you are. People letting off the party poppers meant for the kiss scene between the Baron and Maria at inappropriate times, hecklers, entire families dressing up girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes/brown paper packages tied up with string etc are all part of the SASM experience no matter whether you're catching the show in London, Sydney or New York.

But there are some aspects of SASM that I think must be particular to different geographical settings. A friend of mine who came with me to see the show at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco talked about its appeal to hen (aka bachelorette) parties. This strikes me as a particularly British phenomenon. If there were any groups of drunken, tiara-wearing lasses in the audience at The Castro, they didn't make their presence felt. In England, it seems that SASM caters specially to such groups -- even offering them free champagne.

Of course in The Castro, one of the world's most prominently gay neighborhoods, SASM has an entirely different feel. The line "I do throw some rather gay parties" got a huge cheer, as did "follow every rainbow." "What's the matter with all you gloomy pussies?" elicited an auditorium-wide laugh. Until now, I didn't understand what it is about Julie Andrews that makes her a gay icon. Now I do.

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