August 25, 2014. The live version of The Sound of Music that Carrie Underwood starred in last year was up for a few Emmy Awards tonight. This seemed like a good time to get my original rant posted on my blog.
Licking the remains of the last few specks of tart, Lik-m-aid Fun Dip powder from the sugary white dipping stick. Entertaining myself with my bright red, handheld Merlin game in the backseat of my mom’s car. Having my hopes dashed when the cakes that came out of my Easy Bake Oven neither looked nor tasted anything like the television commercials promised they would. Stepping on the brightly colored pegs from my Light Bright in the middle of the night on my way into pee (charming……I know). These are just a few of the memories I have of growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, and even though I’m fairly sure I still have shards of hot pink plastic lodged in the bottom of my left foot from that darn Light Bright, I love every single one of them.
As a middle school teacher, I’m constantly reminded of the differences between the world today and the one that existed when I was a teenager. We’ve traded Ocean Pacific, Members Only, Jordache and Esprit, for American Eagle, Under Armor and Abercrombie & Fitch. We’ve swapped IZOD’S alligator for Hollister’s seagull.
For the good, the bad or the ugly, gone are the days of Hammer Pants, rainbow colored leg warmers and “big” hair with teased bangs (the likes of which could easily poke one’s eye out if caught at just the right angle). Parachute Pants have been replaced by Cargo Pants, Jelly Shoes by Crocks, Banana Clips by Scrunchies, Stonewashed Jeans by Skinny Jeans and Boomboxes by i-pods. Hand written notes to friends now take the form of electronic text messages filled with variations of LOL, BTW, WTF (my apologies), ROFL and #Istillhavenoideawhatahashtagis.
How is it even possible that the decades that quite literally defined me as a person currently stand at #4 and #5 on today’s Most Popular Theme Parties Top 10 Lists? (It’s true. I GOOGLED it.)
I get it. Things change. Really, I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Growing up, there were a few things I could always count on…
- Each year, on the morning of December 25, I found a book of Lifesavers Candy tucked away in my Christmas stocking.
- I could accidentally sever a limb in a freak accident, but if it happened on a Thursday night between 8:00-9:00 pm while Mom was watching The Waltons, the medical attention required to reattach that body part would have to wait.
- And last, but certainly not least, The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp, would air on TV every Easter weekend.
Watching The Sound of Music was a sacred experience in my house. SACRED. The excitement and anticipation that shot through me was palpable as I eagerly awaited ABC’s Special Family Presentation of the classic film. I can still smell the butter and taste the salt on the popcorn that my mother made just before the movie began. I remember scurrying to move the coffee table out of the way so I could spread the afghans (which had been knitted with love in the beautiful hues of gold, rust orange, brown and avocado green so popular in the 70s) across the living room floor. Once I’d marked my territory with the afghans, I’d arrange my pillows for maximum comfort in front of the television and just wait for the magic to happen.
There was no bigger thrill than when a commercial would end, the screen would momentarily go blank and the clouds that hovered above the Alps would miraculously appear on the screen. The excitement would build when only a few seconds later the wind began whistling through those mountains as the camera slowly panned its way from sky to land. Every year it was as if that very breeze transported me directly to Salzburg, Austria where I had a front row view of Maria twirling delightedly through the hills. At the end of the opening scene, the bright yellow script the movie title was written in faded into the background, and I sat back and watched as my beloved Maria began her transformation from bumbling nun-to-be, to the Von Trapp children’s favorite governess and eventually Georg Von Trapp’s wife.
In spite of my love and adoration for the film, and my many protests, pleas and promises to be cheerful and chipper the next day, Mom and Dad always made me go to bed right after Maria ran away, guitar in hand, after confessing to Baroness Von Schrader (yes, of course I know her name) that she was, in fact, desperately in love with Captain Von Trapp. Every other night of the year my parents were fast asleep on one of the downstairs couches, snoring away, but never, not even one time, did either of them catch a single wink when I was trying to just once, for the love of God, stay up and watch the rest of that movie. I honestly think I was thirteen years old before I finally saw the actual wedding, the performance by the Von Trapp Family Singers (thanks to the sneaky antics of Uncle Max), and the final escape the family made into the mountains after being saved by the devious shenanigans of Mother Superior and her band of outlaw nuns. In the end, the only reason I was able to finally see the the whole movie wasn’t because I was allowed to stay up late, but because it was the mid 80s and we finally got a VCR.
Looking back, the first time I saw the movie all the way through was memorable for a lot of reasons. Not only was I actually seeing the film in its entirety, but it was also the first time I remember having a true understanding of what that Nazi Flag symbolized. As if I didn’t already have a million reasons to adore Georg Von Trapp, making the discovery that he was a Nazi resister made him even more endearing than ever.
So, what in the world does all of this have to do with anything? A few nights ago I was sitting on the couch correcting papers. I always keep the television on to have noise in the background. It was getting late, my contacts were drying out, and I was ready to call it a night. Just as I was about to hit the power button on the remote, a commercial came on proudly proclaiming that on Thursday, December 5, Carrie Underwood would be starring in a live production of The Sound of Music.
The first thing I did was check the glass on the coffee table to reassure myself that I had, in fact, only been drinking ice tea and not something stronger. Then, when Ashton Kutcher was nowhere to be seen and it was clear that I wasn’t getting Punked, the second thing I did was rewind the commercial (DVR is one update I’ve welcomed with open arms). Much to my horror, I made the discovery that I was not mistaken, I had heard correctly. Carrie Underwood is definitely going to be performing The Sound of Music in front of a live audience in just a few weeks. Nope. Not kidding. It’s true. And every time I see the commercial, I die a little on the inside.
The last thing I did that night was cry myself to sleep.
Okay, not really, but I came pretty darn close. I tossed and turned and tried like heck to put the irrational amount of angst that this new development was causing me into perspective. I mean come on, there are certainly more important things to worry about, and I assure you that I do have my priorities straight. But this is THE SOUND OF MUSIC for crying out Christmas. One of the last unchanged remnants of my childhood. The movie I acted out in my back yard for hours on end. The reason I will go to my grave with a scar just above my right elbow because, as it turns out, running in circles on benches and singing about being sixteen going on seventeen isn’t as easy as Liesl and Rolph made it look.
In order to calm down, I tried to remind myself that the intention of the Underwood performance appears to be to replicate the original Broadway version of the play and not the film, but still, in my mind, Julie Andrews will always be Maria Von Trapp. And I mean always. When Julie Andrews wasn’t singing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, she was starring as Mary Poppins and singing about spoons full of sugar.
What’s Carrie Underwood singing about when she’s not performing live on stage as Maria Von Trapp? Oh, that’s easy. She’s singing about digging her keys into the sides of pretty little souped up 4 wheel drives (again, GOOGLED it).
Please, don’t get me wrong. I promise you, I understand that things change. Really, I do. Just last evening, when I was walking around the local mall, I did a lot of reflecting about the good old days. I was momentarily saddened by the fact that the original Dunkin Donuts at the mall (with its memorable chrome and hot pink vinyl stools), is now a Ruby Tuesdays. If I want to get coffee at the mall these days I have to go to Java Junction and order from a menu that I can only make out with the help of my reading glasses. I’m okay with that. I’m even okay with the fact that the original Gap clothing store, with its orange storefront, is now in a different location and has been replaced with Hollister, the store my son refers to as “the haunted house” because of its unique entryway.
But ask me to think of Maria Von Trapp as anyone other than Julie Andrews and it’s not going to happen.
Not ever. No dice.
Having had a couple of days to let the reality sink in, I can’t help but wonder what’s next for crying out loud? Lady Gaga reprising the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind? Will the young and old alike flock to theaters to see Miley Cyrus (foam finger and all) replace Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Better yet…let’s plug Andrew Dice Clay into Gregory Peck’s role as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and see how that turns out.
Not that I’m bitter.
In case there’s any question, on the evening of December 5, I will be in the middle of my living room floor, making myself comfortable on my afghans and with my pillows piled high. And though I won’t have Mom’s awesome popcorn dripping with butter and salt, I will have my 94% fat free microwave popcorn by my side. I’ll also have my life size cardboard cutout of Julie Andrews there with me just in case I get overwhelmed and need some support.
Just kidding, that would be weird. I only bring that out when the actual film is being aired.
Finally, don’t get me wrong. I happen to think Carrie Underwood is a terrific singer with a wonderful voice. It’s nothing personal. Honestly, it isn’t. In fact, I give her a lot of credit for being willing to take on such a huge responsibility, especially in a “live television event” during primetime. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on her, that’s for sure, and when all is said and done, I wish her all the best. I hope, after all my ranting and raving about her taking on this role, that she does a phenomenal job.
At the end of the day, as it so often is, I hope the joke’s on me.
Really, I do.