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24 September 2014
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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?  
Four Maria's with question marks on their backs

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee...


She is a flibbertigibbet, a will-o'-the-wisp, a clown – a slip of a girl, a tower of strength, a confused young woman, a breath of fresh air and a lady in love.


She is all these things and more but who was the real Maria von Trapp whose real life story has become one of the most loved films and musicals of all time and how did the world come to know of her?


Did you know...?


  • Maria Augusta was an 'internee' in the most basic level of monastic admission when she was asked to nurse one of the seven children of widowed naval commander Georg Ritter von Trapp.


  • She fell in love and married Georg in 1927 having relinquished her vows. Having lost their fortune to the Great Depression, the family turned their shared love of music into a career, and became a popular touring act.


  • Shortly after Austria was incorporated into Nazi Germany in 1938, the Trapp family pretended to go on a hiking trip and then took a train to Italy although in the movie their escape was to Switzerland.

    Their popularity was quickly restored, and the Trapp Family Singers were once again touring the world with their singing ensemble, which now consisted of ten children!


  • Maria never intended to write an autobiography, but a friend pleaded with her not to allow her story to be forgotten by others, so she reluctantly scribbled down a few pages about her life.

    This displayed such natural writing talent that she agreed to finish what she had started, and her memoirs, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, was a best-seller.


  • These memoirs were adapted into The Sound of Music, a phenomenally successful Broadway musical, by American songwriting duo Rodgers and Hammerstein, which opened on Broadway in 1959.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein created a string of popular Broadway musicals in the Forties and Fifties including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.


  • The 1959 Broadway musical The Sound of Music, with music by Richard Rogers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein, opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 16 November 1959, and starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain Georg von Trapp. The original Broadway production ran for 1,443 performances.


  • In 1965 the US motion picture The Sound of Music faithfully adapted this Broadway hit, and is generally considered to be the second-most successful movie of all time behind Gone with the Wind.

    It made a record-breaking total gross of more than US$163 million and won five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director.


  • The real Maria, along with one of her daughters and granddaughters, appeared in the film in the background as Julie Andrews sings I Have Confidence. The Trapps had arrived on set that day and the director offered them a walk-on role.


  • Julie Andrews tripped during the filming of one scene and the editors decided to leave this in because it seemed to fit Maria's tomboy character.


  • In 1961 the London production opened at the Palace Theatre in 1961 and ran for 2,385 performances. Jean Bayless played Maria, Roger Dann played Captain Von Trapp and Constance Shacklock was the Mother Abbess.


  • In 1981, Petula Clark signed to star in a revival of the show at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in West End.

    Despite her misgivings that at the age of 51 she was too old to play the role convincingly, Clark opened to unanimous rave reviews (and the largest advance sale in the history of British theatre at that time).

    Maria von Trapp herself, present at the opening night performance, described her as "the best" Maria ever. Due to an unprecedented demand for tickets, Clark extended her initial six-month contract to 13 months.

    This was the first stage production to incorporate the two additional songs that Rodgers had composed for the film version. The cast recording of this production was the first to be recorded digitally, but the recording has never been released on compact disc.


  • Interestingly, the musical itself is virtually unknown in Austria. Many people believe that Edelweiss is an Austrian folk song, or even the national anthem, but it was written by Oscar Hammerstein and is hardly known in Austria.


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