The 'Sound'of Celebration

TIME STAFF WRITER

The producers of the "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music" Saturday evening at the Hollywood Bowl have a small bag of tricks at their disposal--in fact they have thousands of them.

Each member of the audience attending the interactive movie event will receive a bag of props to use during the screening of the beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

The bag includes a little piece of edelweiss so the audience can wave the flower back and forth both times that the song "Edelweiss" is performed in the 1965 Oscar winner that was directed by Robert Wise. Digging a little deeper in their bags, participants will discover pieces of cloth to wave to encourage Maria (Andrews) to make the Von Trapp children's new clothes out of the curtains in her room.

"There is a ticket to the captain's ball," adds Tom Lightburn, producer of the event. "When Gretl says, 'I've never been to a ball before,' people whip out their invitations and then wave them back and forth."

The piece de resistance, though, is a party popper to accompany the first kiss between Maria and the captain (Plummer) in the gazebo.

"The audience is sternly warned about the dangers of premature popping," says Lightburn. "You don't want to disappoint anyone near and dear to you to go off too soon or too late. They have to do it when their lips meet for the first time."

The "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music" phenomenon began three years ago at London's Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The interactive event, sort of a warm and fuzzy "Rocky Horror Picture Show," is still going strong in London. And Stateside it has been performed in more than a dozen cities. Audience members are encouraged not only to sing such standards as "My Favorite Things," "The Sound of Music" and "Do-Re-Mi" but to dress up as their favorite characters from the film.

Charmian Carr, who played the captain's eldest daughter, Liesl, in the film, appeared November at the London "Sing-a-Long" to sign copies of her book, "Forever Liesl."

"I was introduced to the audience and they went crazy," says Carr. "They asked me to sing. I had such a great time. The costumes were fantastic. There are always a lot of Liesls and a lot of nuns."

The Hollywood Bowl is so far the largest venue for "Sing-a-Long." Steve Linder, manager of artistic planning for the Hollywood Bowl, thought "Sing-a-Long" would be a perfect fit with the historical Cahuenga Pass outdoor theater. Linder had read about "Sing-a-Long" in a New Yorker article two years ago. He was further encouraged when a friend attended one of the evenings and "had a blast."

Kathy Najimy of "Sister Act" and "Veronica's Closet" fame will host the pre-show, which includes a costume contest. Among Najimy's duties is to warm up the audience with a little sing-along, plus demonstrate the hand gestures for "Do-Re-Me."

"Then she'll go through how to use the props," says Lightburn. "There are a variety of interactive movements--like stand up during the wedding procession, raise up your arms whenever you see Julie in the mountains and stand up and twirl around one time before singing 'The Sound of Music."'

The evening, Carr says, also gives adults a chance to be kids again. "When you are little and when you are teenagers, you can go to parties and dress up. But when you are grown up and become parents and grandparents, there is no longer a venue for you to let your hair down," she explains.

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Bringing "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music" to the Bowl is complicated because the venue is not a movie theater. Usually the Bowl employs a 22-by-30-foot screen on its movie nights, but in this case, a 30-by-70-foot screen will be installed. "Sound of Music" was shot in the wide-screen process Todd-AO.

The screen will be installed after the Friday evening "Opening Night at the Hollywood Bowl" performance. "It will take until 4 in the morning," says Linder. "It will be technically exciting to pull this off. The screen will be in front of the shell and as wide as the stage."

Because the Bowl is so large, there will be a sound delay for audience members in the back section. But Linder says it won't affect any of the "Sing-a-Long" moments.

As of last week, 11,000 of approximately 17,500 seats had been sold for the event. Linder is expecting a crowd of around 15,000. Among those scheduled to attend the festivities are director Wise and the film's screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, who will be seeing "Sing-a-Long" for the first time.

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* "Sing-a-Long Sound of Music," Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave. Admission, $1 to $50. For information, call (323) 850-2000. To charge tickets, call (213) 480-3232.

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