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All together now: N.Y. is alive with sound of music

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It's not often that a gala movie premire features goats munching hay in a makeshift pen or fans flitting about in Alpine lederhosen. And frankly, some of this pea-green garb looked as though it might have come from old curtains.

Instead of black ties and sequins, next to the red carpet were groups in white dresses with blue satin sashes, people with snowflakes on their noses and eyelashes, and even a guy with brown paper packages tied up with string - piled on his head. And all were just clamoring to sing, lusty and clear from their anxious throats: "Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay ee hoo."

Decades after the original premire of "The Sound of Music," throngs of people continue to be charmed by the moping melancholy of a goatherd prancing in the mountains overlooking Salzburg - even if he was just a puppet on a string.

The "Sing-A-Long Sound of Music," which opens to the public tonight, is a subtitled re-showing of the musical that introduced the world to the problem of a flibbertigibbet.

Launched in Britain, where it sold out midnight showings for the past year, the film has become a phenomenon - possibly the first G-rated cult film in modern history.

Despite the camp engendered by this sing-along production, "The Sound of Music" has had perhaps as much of an impact on movie-goers as any other film. Whether it's humming "My Favorite Things" or even a couple borrowing the dramatic wedding march for their own, this musical about a short-bobbed, hill-loving heroine, Frulein Maria, continues to spark viewer passion.

And while cineastes (and even some of the movie's stars) scoff, "The Sound of Music" has "pleased more people than practically any other film in history," as film critic Leonard Maltin writes. The combination of romance, God and country, and seven-part harmony ranks third all-time, behind "Gone With the Wind" and "Star Wars," if grosses are converted into today's dollars.

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