For Oscar Hammerstein, it was his last and most famous musical. For Maria von Trapp, it was the story of her life. In MARIA Michelle Moran takes readers back to New York of the 1950s for the remarkable tale of the woman who inspired The Sound of Music and the man who penned it.
When Oscar Hammerstein is asked to write the lyrics to a musical based on the life of a woman named Maria von Trapp, he reads her autobiography and is immediately transfixed. Here was a young woman prepared to live quietly as an Austrian nun until her abbey sent her away to teach a widowed Baron’s sickly child. What should have been a simple ten-month assignment, however, unexpectedly turned into a marriage proposal. And when the family was forced to escape the Nazis and leave everything behind, it was Maria von Trapp who instructed them on how to survive using nothing but the power of their voices and song.
It’s an inspirational story, to be sure. And as one half of the famous duo Rodgers & Hammerstein, Oscar knows it has big Broadway potential. But there are many elements of Maria’s life which will have to be reinvented for the stage. The fact that the Baron, Georg von Trapp, was twenty years Maria’s senior, for example. And the ten-year gap between Maria’s marriage and her escape from the Nazi invasion. With the horrors of war still fresh in people’s minds, Oscar has no plans to let audiences see just how close the von Trapps came to losing their lives. And he certainly will not be portraying Maria von Trapp as an overbearing stage mom whose ambitions pushed her family to international success.
Meanwhile, when fifty-four-year-old Maria von Trapp is given the script of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical based on her life, she is so incensed by what she reads that she sets off for New York, demanding to see Oscar Hammerstein in person. Told that Oscar is too busy to see her, she is asked to express her concerns to his secretary, Frances Connelly, instead. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship as Maria tells Fran about her life, contradicting much of what will eventually appear in the film The Sound of Music and delivering a tale that is far grittier and much more riveting.
A tale of love, loss, and the difficult choices we are often forced to make, MARIA tells the unbelievable story of the woman behind one of the most beloved musicals of all time and the man who made her famous.