Flashback Friday: The Time Seattle Got TRAPPed

The von Trapps Visit the Emerald City
While on Tour in the 1940s

Recently, Marlys McDonald, the Wardrobe Master here at The 5th, discovered a rare and auspicious gem amongst her family archives: original programs from the 1940s when the real-life Trapp Family Singers visited Seattle. And she found them just in time for our revival of The Sound of Music!

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The Sound of Austrian Music

People who meet the von Trapps via The Sound of Music may be surprised that the repertoire of the real-life Trapp Family Singers was unlike the jolly musical theater songs that Rodgers & Hammerstein created. The real von Trapps sang mostly art music—madrigals, religious pieces and classically-arranged folk music. In a 1998 interview, one of Georg and Maria’s sons said, “We were about good taste, culture, and all those wonderful upperclass standards that people make fun of in movies.”

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Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of Music

RICHARD RODGERS composed his first songs at a summer camp, then wrote music for shows at Columbia University. A friend introduced him to a smart young lyric writer, Larry Hart, who shared his ambitious artistic goals. The two wrote several clever scores, but they attracted little attention and Rodgers seriously considered an offer to quit and sell children’s underwear.

They finally got their big break in 1925 with a small benefit show that won raves from the critics. For the next fifteen years Rodgers & Hart were one of the top teams on Broadway, writing 28 stage musicals and over 500 songs.

OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II was born into a show business family. His grandfather built theaters and opera houses, and his father managed the biggest vaudeville palace in Manhattan. The family wanted him to become a lawyer, but show business was in his blood and he quit law school to write lyrics for Broadway musicals.

Hammerstein had a huge hit with the groundbreaking 1927 musical Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern. But for years he wasn’t able to follow Show Boat with another hit, and by 1940, Hammerstein wondered if his time had passed.

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