Sometimes a concept for a show is perfect: all the right ingredients in the right proportions, released at the right time in the right city to the right audience. It cannot fail. And yet the showbiz graveyard is filled with catastrophes which prove that when it comes to a formula for entertainment nobody knows anything.
On the other hand, a show can have so many factors working against it that it cannot possibly succeed. And yet succeed it does.
Which brings us to Singalong Sound of Music. A kitsch, outdated film, packed with dire acting and syrupy songs. An oh-so-British pantomime warm up. A demand to join in, stand up, shout out, sing. In Stockholm. To an audience of Swedes.
Whatever David Lones, the producer of the Swedish version of what has become a worldwide phenomenon, saw in the idea in London, he must have had confidence in confidence alone to bring it to Stockholm.
The show’s first run in the city was in 2002 and now, as the fourth year begins, the Swedish version is the second most popular in the world. Nobody knows anything, but Lones must have known something.
For as the famous opening sequence – and the reason why the Austrians never had to make another ad for their mountains – begins, something changes. An auditorium’s worth of Swedes begin stamping their feet and counting down from ten to herald what Lones calls the “the most magical moment of all”: the moment when Julie Andrews, as the nun Maria, appears for the first time.
And then it’s group participation all the way, booing the Nazis, cheering Maria, yelling “behind you” at key moments which everyone except this reviewer seemed to grasp, and making various other utterances which defy spelling.
Who wouldn’t climb every mountain for a slice of this action? Possibly the two thirteen year old boys yawning grumpily at the end of row 12, but then maybe they were expecting a different kind of interactive entertainment. Playstation this ain’t.
Perhaps it’s best not to try to analyse why Singalong Sound of Music works so well. During the interval a Swede dressed as a nun simply pointed out that “it’s easy to be uninhibited in a dark room”, before dashing off to grab another bottle of Blue Nun.
As the show proceeds, the level of individual banter increases. The von Trapp family hide from the Nazis in the tensest moment of the film. “Oh my God, will they make it?” cries one woman and the crowd guffaws.
Marketing this show to Swedes, who love to categorise, must be a nightmare. So what the hell is Singalong Sound of Music? A kitsch tribute gig? Group karaoke? Self-generating comedy?
Who cares? It’s certainly something good.
The show is playing every Wednesday at the Skandia cinema in Stockholm: more information