Singing Along at the Movies
A big hit in The Big City, as they say, sing-a-long film screenings are capturing audiences nationwide with their unique, interactive approach to watching a movie.
But now, this film phenomenon is starting to hit smaller towns, too, with the arrival of Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, which is making a rare showing in Northern Michigan this month at the Traverse City Opera House.
Just what is a sing-a-long film screening? Well, it’s a step above a regular film screening, for starters, with elements that elevate even an already-great movie to a more participatory experience.
Audiences are given props and lyrics so that they can sing along with the songs in the film and “act out” some of the pivotal movie moments right from their seats.
The Sound of Music’s Sing-A-Long experience continues this new tradition.
“This event is a blast,” explains Sound of Music Sing-A-Long host Stefanie Miller. “It starts with a pre-show, which is what I do. We sing some of the songs, I teach you how to use each of the props in your fun pack so you’re prepared for the magical moments in the movie, and we do a costume parade. Then the movie starts, and you’re taken to the beautiful Alps to share Maria’s journey and sing along.”
“Maria’s journey,” of course, refers to Julie Andrews’ role as the Austrian governess who brings a little music and fun into the lives of the rather stoic Von Trapp family in the classic 1965 film.
For the sing-a-long portions of the screening, the lyrics are displayed at the bottom of the screen during the movie, just like a giant, upscale karaoke screen.
For the rest, the guide is your host - a descendant, so to speak, of what’s thought to be the first sing-a-long movie, which theater lore attributes to an old folks’ home in Inverness, Scotland at which the nurses reportedly screened the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers complete with song sheets to encourage the patients to sing along.
Later, sing-a-long shows were developed for Hairspray, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Sing-A-Long Elvis, and Grease, which remains one of the most popular sing-a-long events.
But even though the music is an integral focus of the shows, singing is actually only part of the event.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
“Audiences are encouraged to arrive in costume,” Miller enthuses. “And I’ve seen a lot of creative costumes, from full Von Trapp families to a gaggle of nuns to ‘brown paper packages tied up with string’ (a reference to one of the songs in the film.) It’s always so much fun during the costume parade to see what people do.”
“Doing” is the other element that makes these screenings unique. Props are provided in the fun packs, but Miller says that if you’re familiar with the movie, you can bring props of your own, as well.
“My favorite (prop moment) is for the song “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria,” Miller says. “You have two cards, with printed pictures on each side. During the song, you hold certain pictures up to the screen, but you have to get the timing right with flipping the cards so you have the right picture up. It can be a little bit of a coordination challenge but it’s a lot of fun and always gets a laugh.”
There’s plenty of laughing during these screenings. And it’s nice to see a group of people get together to celebrate a particular movie in such an energetic and colorful way. Traverse City is in for a treat.
“I think this screening will be a hit in Northern Michigan,” Miller says. “The Sound of Music is one of those timeless classics. I’ve seen generations arrive together at the theater to enjoy the story together for the first time, or to see it again on the big screen. It’s truly my pleasure as the host to bring life to this beautiful story, and I know you’ll have a great time.”
Sing-A-Long Sound of Music will screen at the Traverse City Opera House on Saturday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.. For tix and more info, call the box offi ce at 231-941-8082.