On November 16, 1959, “The Sound of Music” opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City. Popular Broadway star Mary Martin originated the title role of Maria von Trapp and there was so much excitement that producers sold $2 million in advance ticket sales before the musical opened its doors. Aside from giving the world dozens of new favorite songs, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actress for Martin.
The show was based on Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” While deciding if she should pursue a life as a nun, Maria takes a job as a governess to the von Trapp family. She teaches them how to sing and falls in love with the children and their widowed father, Captain von Trapp. Maria and the whole family eventually flee from their Austrian home to the United States, when Captain von Trapp refuses to collaborate with the Nazis. All the while, the musical is filled with some of the most beloved songs in the American songbook, including “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “Climb Every Mountain,” ”Edelweiss,” and (of course) “Sound of Music.” The original cast recording became as popular as the musical itself, selling close to three million copies worldwide.
Martin landed the role of Maria thanks to her Broadway producer husband, Richard Halliday, who thought she’d be perfect for the part. During her two years in the show, Martin only missed one performance. Before playing von Trapp, Martin had already made a name for herself as a Broadway leading lady with two Best Actress Tony Awards under her belt. After her 1938 debut role in Cole Porter’s “Leave It To Me!,” she went on to star in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 production of “South Pacific,” the title role in “Peter Pan” (1954) and she also starred opposite Robert Preston in 1966’s “I Do! I Do!”
“The Sound of Music” was the final musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein, but continues to live on due to the success of the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews as Maria. In fact, the movie had the longest run in U.S. cinemas ever for four and a half years. Even further proof of the timelessness of the musical, in 2013 “The Sound of Music” was rebooted for a live TV version starring Carrie Underwood as Maria and 18.6 million viewers tuned in. To this day, the endearing and exhilarating musical is still one of our favorite things!