The Hills Are Alive

LET’S start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? Well, you can find out on BBC1 this Saturday night, with more details in tomorrow’s M.E.N. Television page feature.
The Sound of Music is, arguably, the greatest musical story of all time. The original Broadway show was turned into that classic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews – and is still one of many people’s favourite things.

Writing tomorrow’s feature brought back memories of an interview in May 1981 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London with Stockport-born Sound of Music stage producer Ross Taylor.
A former carpenter, he told me: “When I was 13 or 14, I saw Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma at the Manchester Opera House and went every night. That changed my life.”
Ross, who had already enjoyed an amazing career, added: “All sorts of people ask how you get to where I am now and I tell them that you just do it. If you have got the guts to get there from a two up, two down in Stockport, you can do it.”
His West End revival of the hit show, starring Petula Clark as Maria, went on to be a huge success. It also featured Nicola Donohue, aged six, as Gretel, the youngest of the von Trapp children. Her parents John and Maureen ran the Fairfield Inn, Bury.
Ross is pictured below with his arms around little Nicola on a pre-production visit to Austria with Petula, the real Baroness Maria von Trapp and other children chosen to star in the stage show.

On the opening night that August, I sat behind Maria, then aged 76, who rose from her seat at the end and joined in an emotional encore.
She died in March 1987. But the Sound of Music story goes on, with no end in sight, whether it be sing along versions, reunions of the cast members who played the children in the film or trips to the movie locations in Salzburg.
The BBC1 series is looking for a girl to play the role of Maria in a new London Palladium production of the musical, which opens in November. A series of open auditions have already taken place, with the eventual final choice in the hands of a public vote. Could the new Maria come from Manchester? You’ll just have to watch to find out.
Click here for more on the real story of the von Trapp family.

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