The Story Behind the Stunt
You've probably seen the video of "The Sound of Music" flash mob in the Antwerp Train Station. If you haven't, scroll down to watch. It's great fun. But what's the story behind the stunt?
I'm a compulsive researcher, and I can't pass up a viral video like this without wanting to know more. Who are these people? What put them up to this? Why "The Sound of Music"? I didn't find all the answers, but I learned some interesting things!
First, this stunt is indirectly the fault of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Broadway genius behind Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Below, I'll explain why.
Second, I learned the story of the real Maria von Trapp. I vaguely knew that the Singing von Trapps were a real family, but I didn't know which parts of The Sound of Music were true.
But wait, let's watch that video again!
The Sound of Music in Antwerp Train Station
So, Who Are These People?!
It HAD to Be Staged. The Question Is -- By Whom, And Why?
Clicking through to the video's description reveals that these 200+ dancers were part of "a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role in the musical of 'The Sound of Music.'"
I'm not sure who they were. If they're part of the production company putting on the musical, you'd think they'd already have a lead. But at least that gives us a clue about why.
In 2006, Andrew Lloyd Webber staged a production of The Sound of Music at the London Palladium Theater. To find his Maria, he produced a reality TV show called How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? It was a hit -- both the reality TV show and the London musical. In 2008, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria (Canada) brought a new Maria and Andrew Lloyd Webber's production to Toronto. In 2008, the Netherlands' Efteling Theater used the Dutch TV show "In search..." to find their Maria. And in 2009 -- you guessed it! -- a new Antwerp production of The Sound of Music chose their Maria via the reality TV show Op zoek naar Maria, "The Search For Maria," airing on VTM, a Belgian television station.
The Antwerp Train Station Sound of Music was staged by VTM two days before the premiere of Op zoek naar Maria. The video created an instant stir, not just in Belgium, but all over the internet! So now we've got a viral video promoting a reality TV show that was promoting a modern musical revival of a 60s musical based on a true story about a family who staged musicals...is your head spinning yet?
The winner of the Op zoek naar Maria talent show, Deborah de Ridder, became an instant celebrity and began her run as Antwerp's Maria on August 20, 2009. The show runs into summer 2010.
There's a funny side effect to the Antwerp Train Station Sound of Music video. It's so popular that if you search for "Antwerp Sound of Music," you'll only find references to the stunt. I have yet to track down the official website for the theater production it was promoting!
The Finalists for "Op zoek naar Maria"
I'm not sure 100% sure which of these is Deborah de Ridder-- I think she's the one in light blue-- but this is a fun production of "My Favorite Things"! From a Playlist showing many of the finalists' performances.
The Real Maria von Trapp
Who was the real Maria von Trapp? I'd almost forgotten that "The Sound of Music" was based on a true story.
Maria von Trapp really was an Austrian nun who became a governess for the von Trapp family. In fact, she was hired to look after only one of the children, Maria, gravely ill from scarlet fever which had also claimed their mother. Their father, WWI war hero Georg von Trapp, eventually fell in love with the elder Maria and asked her to be "a second mother to his children [*]. He was not a harsh and aloof father as the musical portrayed him. The von Trapps were already a musical family, but Maria taught them madrigals and talked Georg into marketing the family's talent in public performances after the Depression claimed most of his fortune. They did flee the Nazis -- by train, not over the mountains -- went to Italy, not Switzerland, and immigrated to America. They toured successfully as the Von Trapp Family Singers. Little of the money from the popular musical and movie reached the von Trapps, but Maria seemed satisfied:
''The great good the film and the play are doing to individual lives is far beyond money,'' she said in an interview with The New York Times shortly after the film's release. ''There seems to be so much despair in the world. But so many people write about how much the film has helped them in restoring their confidence in God.'' -- Source: Maria von Trapp's 1987 obituary in The New York Times
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However, she did complain that Julie Andrews and Mary Martin, the woman who portrayed her in the original Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, "were too gentle-- like girls out of Bryn Mawr." (Source: "The Real Story of the von Trapp Family," Washington National Archives, which is the source of the above photo). As a Bryn Mawr alumna myself-- as was Kate Hepburn, by the way! -- I'm amused.
Okay, history lesson over! Let's watch some more fun videos. I'm sure Maria von Trapp would approve of spreading joy through music!
Books by the von Trapp family
Maria von Trapp penned several books about about her family, her faith, and the music. (Titles without photos are used editions)
The second book penned by two of her daughters, Maria and Georgia, and includes a CD of songs.
New Zealand Train Station's Sound of Music - An homage to the Sound of Music in Antwerp Train Station
In July 2009, the students of Tawa College, Wellington, NZ staged another Sound of Music Train Station performance. So now we've got student musicals of a... prank!
I hope you've enjoyed this search for the roots of a viral video as much as I did. It just proves that no matter what you stumble across, you can usually learn something if you look-- although what you find may be the answer to a different question!
Suresh on August 14, 2016:
Honestly I had watched this for more than 100 times both with camera 1 & 2 downloaded from youtube.
The innocent smiles of people who are watching live at the station and the joy of all the dancers. WOW. really great and wonderful. amazed.
Andromachi Polychroniou from Maurothalassa, Serres, Greece on April 03, 2014:
thank you for the videos. i always love the sound of music. it was a nice surprise seeing it still has appeal.
Louis Wery from Sarasota, Florida USA on March 15, 2011:
I wondered about the Antwerp Train Station surprise, especially since my father is a native of Antwerp. Thank you for investigating! I enjoyed reading through this lens and picking up lots of interesting details. Blessed...
COCavemen on February 03, 2011:
I saw a very similar performance to the cafeteria clip where people sang the Hallelujah chorus at Christmas time. Spectacular! Cavemen enjoy good music too!
anonymous on January 24, 2011:
where can I get the music to this? I would like to buy a track of the train station mix.
traveller27 on January 14, 2011:
Always loved The Sound of Music
anonymous on December 30, 2010:
I actually found the Facebook page of the people who were behind this stunt and if you look at the friend list, most of them are recognizable. I too have insatiable curiosity and wanted to know who these people actually are! I will find this link and send the link in a day or two. :D ...Jenny
anonymous on June 03, 2010:
As far as I'm aware, there isn't a Sound of Music Show currently running in Belgium, but there is in Holland. It may be the same traveling theater company linked to the Antwerp video. You can find the dates and locations for the Dutch shows, and others around the world, at http://www.the-sound-of-music-guide.com/sound-of-m...
Ellen Brundige (author) from California on May 11, 2010:
@anonymous: No idea, though I did recently see a very touching interview of her on the BBC site. She'd had throat surgery, poor lady! She was afraid she'd lose her voice altogether. She's got it back, though she can't hit the high notes anymore, and gave a charity concert last winter.
anonymous on March 30, 2010:
Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what Julie Andrews thinks of this marvelous stunt?
Achim Thiemermann from Austin, Texas on November 22, 2009:
Ellen Brundige (author) from California on November 19, 2009:
@fluffanutta: I nearly included that to! I bet it'll show up in the related vids at the end of playthrough on some of these. :)
It was indeed fun. I love flash mob pranks, when they're done in a good-hearted way.
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on November 18, 2009:
A friend sent the Antwerp station video to me when it first hit the internet. I loved it, sent it to all of my other friends and saved it for a long time. What a great lens! 5*s and fav.
fluffanutta from UK on November 18, 2009:
T-Mobile did a similar stunt in London last year, with great effect:
Kate Phizackerl1 on November 16, 2009:
I love Antwerp station. That video was a real treat. Thank you so much.