The story begins near the Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg, Austria, before World War II. An Abbey postulant, ‘Maria Rainer’, is on the nearby mountainside regretting leaving the beautiful
hills ("The Sound of Music") where she was raised. The ‘Mother
Abbess’ and the other nuns consider what to do about her ("Maria"). She
apologizes for singing in the garden without permission, and the Mother Abbess joins her in song ("My Favorite Things"). The Mother Abbess tells her she should spend time outside the abbey to
see if she is ready for the monastic life. She will act as the governess to
‘Captain Georg von Trapp’s’ seven children.
Maria arrives at Captain von Trapp’s villa; he is a decorated World War I Captain of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. He explains her duties and summons the children, who march in,
clad in uniforms. He teaches her their individual signals on his boson's whistle, but she openly disapproves
of this militaristic approach. Alone with them, she breaks through their wariness and teaches them the basics of music ("Do-Re-Mi").
Young messenger ‘Rolf’ delivers a telegram
and meets outside with the oldest von Trapp child, ‘Liesl’. He claims he knows what is right for her
because he is a year older ("Sixteen Going on Seventeen"). He kisses
her hand, and he runs off, leaving her screaming with joy. Meanwhile,
the housekeeper, ‘Frau Schmidt’, gives Maria material to make new clothes. She sees Liesl slipping
in through a window, but agrees to keep her secret. The other children are frightened by a sudden thunderstorm. Maria
sings to distract them (“The Lonely Goatherd”).
von Trapp arrives a month later with ‘Max Detweiler’, a ‘friend’ of the family. Rolf enters,
looking for Liesl, and greets them with "Heil", a German salute. The Captain orders him away, saying
that he is Austrian, not German. Maria and the children leapfrog in,
wearing play clothes she made from old drapes. The furious Captain sends them off to change. She tells
him that he needs to love them, and he angrily orders her back to the abbey. As she apologizes, the children sing
("The Sound of Music" - Reprise), which Maria taught them to welcome the Captain upon his return home. He
joins in, and then embraces them. Alone with Maria, he asks her to stay, thanking her for bringing music back to
The Captain gives a party to ease political tensions. One of the
von Trapp children, ‘Kurt’, asks Maria to teach him to dance (“The Ländler”). When
he is unable to negotiate a complicated step, the Captain steps in to demonstrate. He and Maria dance until they
come face-to-face, and she breaks away, embarrassed and confused. Another of the von Trapp children, ‘Brigitta’,
tells Maria that she and the Captain are really in love with each other. Max asks Georg to let the children
say goodnight to the guests with a song ("So Long, Farewell"). Max is amazed at their talent and wants
them for the annual Saltzburg Music Festival, which he is organizing. The guests leave for the dining room, and
Maria slips out the front door with her luggage.
At the abbey, Maria
says that she is ready to take her monastic vows; but the Mother Abbess realizes that
she is running away from her feelings. She tells her to face the Captain and discover if they love each other,
and that, by searching for it, she must find the life she was meant to live ("Climb Ev'ry
Max teaches the children to sing on stage. When the Captain leads them, they
complain he is not doing it ‘like Maria did’. They try to cheer themselves up by singing ("My
Favorite Things" - Reprise), but are unsuccessful, until they hear Maria singing on her way to rejoin them. Alone,
he and Maria finally admit their love, and decide to get married.
the newlyweds are away on their honeymoon, Max prepares the children for the Saltzburg Festival. The Captain and Maria return
early, and in view of developments, he refuses to allow the children to sing in the Festival. Max argues that they
would be singing for Austria, but the Captain says the Austria he knew no longer exists. The Captain reads
a telegram that offers him a commission in the German Navy. He consults Maria and decides that they must secretly
flee Austria. ‘Franz’, the von Trapp’s butler, brings in German ‘Admiral von Schreiber’,
accompanied by ’Herr Zeller’ and Rolf, to find out why the Captain has not answered the telegram. The
Admiral says the German Navy holds Georg in high regard, offers him the commission, and tells him to report immediately
to Bremerhaven. Maria says that he cannot leave yet, as they are all singing
in the Festival concert, and the Admiral agrees to wait until after it.
concert, Max brings out the Captain's guitar, so can sing with his family (“Edelweiss”). The Captain
then asks the audience to sing the song again (“Edelweiss” - Reprise), as the Austrian national flower becomes
a declaration of loyalty to the country itself. Max asks for an encore and announces that this is the von Trapp
family's last chance to sing together, as the honor guard waits to escort the Captain to his new command. While
the judges decide on the prizes, the von Trapp children sing ("So Long, Farewell" - Reprise), leaving the stage
in small groups. Max then announces the runners-up, stalling as much as possible. When he announces that the first
prize goes to the von Trapp Family and they do not appear, the German soldiers realize that they have escaped. The
family hides at the Abbey. A nun tells them that the borders have been closed. The family flees over
the Alps as the nuns sing ("Climb Ev'ry Mountain" - Reprise).