Pete Dillon, owner of Tusq PR and Events, is no stranger to Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music; this year at the Arts Centre marks his fifth visit since it was launched in the UK back in 1999 (celeb guests have included Elton John, Neil Tennant and Joan Collins).
Pete, what is it about the film that inspires you to dress up in costume and sing out loud with a theatre full of people?
It’s one of my favourite films of all time and it’s very much a feel-good film. I remember sitting down as a kid with my family and every time The Sound of Music was on television we were allowed to stay up late and watch it, so there’s that wonderful connection there.
Do you have to be a die-hard Sound of Music fan to get a kick out of the sing-a-long?
It’s one of those films where you’ll know one or two of the songs, so you’ll have an idea about the ‘Lonely Goat Herder’ or ‘Do Re Mi’ or any one of the songs that comes from the film. And all the words are on the screen so you get in and you find you just get amongst it and sing along.
Who do you usually go with?
I get a group of people together every year and go because it’s just rollicking good fun. I did take my sister one year here in Melbourne and we had a ball.
Is there a particular demographic?
I think the mix is very diverse. Obviously the gay and lesbian community like to get amongst it but there are young people, young families, older people who may’ve been around when the film was first released in the ’60s.
Why do you think The Sound of Music still holds such appeal for so many people?
There’s a certain charm to the film and it’s something that we all know and commit to in some way or another; especially those of us who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s when we didn’t have access to what the ’90s generation and beyond had.
Will your crew dress in costume this year?
The jury’s still out on that, we think so but we’re just not sure yet what the costume theme will be this year. In past years I’ve done the nuns but this year there’s talk of brown paper packages tied up with strings; we’re all just going to make some sort of outfit out of brown paper and tie ourselves up with string. Someone also suggested we could go with snowflakes that stay on our noses and eyelashes but that might make things difficult to watch.
What has been the best costume effort you’ve seen at a sing-a-long over the years?
The best costume I ever saw were these three or four guys under this great huge green blanket. All the people who were dressed up were called up onto the stage, and when the presenter asked the guys what they were dressed up as they were just moving under this big green blanket saying, “The hills are alive!”
How do sing-a-longers usually go about getting their Sound of Music-themed costumes together?
Some will make their own, some will go to great lengths. I know somebody who went to a very well-known fabric store and bought a whole bunch of ugly curtain material and made lederhosen and headscarves and dresses out of the curtain material. There are some pretty hardcore people but you don’t have to dress up, though I think it adds to the atmosphere.
Nuns' outfits are a popular choice, particularly for the blokes in attendance. Any tips on how to pull a costume like this together?
Oddly enough, a lot of costume shops have them but it’s a really simple costume to make. You just need a bit of a black dress and a black headpiece and a white bit of material, you could whip one up in an afternoon.
We hear there’s a lot of crowd participation expected.
There’s always hissing and booing at the Baroness Schraeder who Captain von Trapp is, at one point, going to marry. But the host will generally take you through where we should be booing and hissing and where we should be whistling and all of that.
So your host plays a big part in keeping the sing-a-long on track?
Yes, the host comes on at the start. You get a little pack when you go in and it might have some edelweiss or it might have some other bits and pieces in it. You hold up the edelweiss when you see edelweiss, which comes up twice in the film: once when the family are leaving to escape to Switzerland and the other when the Captain first discovers that the children can sing after he’s been away.
The edelweiss: it’s the Austrian national emblem. It’s a little white flower, so people get edelweiss and wave it around sort of like a cigarette lighter at a concert, backwards and forwards.
Do you think you’ll ever get enough of The Sound of Music?
I think every time I’ve watched the film, there’s just something little that I’ve noticed that I may not have seen the last time. I’ve probably seen the film over 150 or 200 times. I’m a little bit obsessed.