Happy 50th Anniversary

November 16, 2009 at 11:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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2009 seems to be a big year for anniversaries. In January it was a half-century (a half century!!) since the calling of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII. I used to be embarrassed that when I was a teenager I considered the council the most important thing that ever had happened. How parochial of me, I thought.  But some author I read recently described contemporary Roman Catholicism, with its 1.2 billion members, as the largest religious body in the history of the world. So maybe my enthusiasm wasn’t all that parochial. Thank you, good Pope John. Please pray that your successors don’t manage to eradicate every trace of your legacy.

And then today on the radio comes the equally earth-shattering announcement (!!) that it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the first Broadway performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. If I was embarrassed at being wild about Vatican II, what is there to say  about my girlhood enthusiasm for what was surely the most sappy and sentimental of all R&H’s productions? Indeed, Hammerstein himself died less than a year later. But I still get chills when someone intones “The hilllllls are alive…”

The NPR commentator tried to give the S of M some gravitas by observing that it was one of the first productions to address the Holocaust, and I suppose that’s true. So did the film production of the Dairy of Anne Frank,  whose fiftieth anniversary is also this year. But they could hardly have made The Diary of Anne Frank into a musical, or at least, we can be grateful they didn’t. So The Sound of Music  continued to fill my heart with joy for quite a while. In truth, I am seriously tempted to order the 50th anniversary cd right now…

In what I think of as the culmination of my years in grade school , in 1960 or 61, my mother took me to see The Sound of Music on Broadway, while Mary Martin was still playing Maria. I was ecstatic. I stood at the stage door afterward and got Martin’s autograph; she wrote on her picture, “To Marian, with every best wish. Mary Martin.” I still have it, in my pink teenage memory box.

On the way to Penn Station to get the train back to Philly I said to my mother, “I wonder what parish Mary Martin belongs to?” To which my  mother replied, “Marian, Mary Martin is Jewish, so I don’t think she belongs to a parish.

Sometimes I wonder who that girl was who thought you had to be a Catholic to play a Catholic on Broadway. Happy anniversary to her, too.

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  1. That girl must have been spiritually related to the young novice who by listening to the record the novitiate had been given, wrote out a script to include all the music and produced with the novices our own version of the Sound of Music. And a grand job it was too.


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