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The live television performance of The Sound of Music brought a cavalcade of snark to the internet on Thursday night, but for all those attitudinal jabs, there were also plenty of impressive moments to the ambitious undertaking. THR runs down five highlights from NBC’s production.
THE CURTAIN RISES
It was a moment television viewers waited over a year to experience — Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp in the beloved stage musical The Sound of Music. Since NBC issued its press release on Nov. 30, 2012, the anticipation for this live event has been steadily building, lending an extra jolt of electricity to the opening moments of the show. With the realization that after all of the promotion, casting, rehearsing, set-building, choreography and everything else it takes to mount a three-hour broadcast, it was finally happening. Cue the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey and let’s see if anyone makes a mistake in real time.
ROLE OF A LIFETIME
It was impossible to watch The Sound of Music Live without being conscious of the fact that this was a dream role for Carrie Underwood. Already living the life of a fairytale princess thanks to her American Idol win in 2005, the lead role in the beloved family tale just added more enchantment to her story. Growing up, she watched the 1965 film with her mother many times, and now, as an adult, this woman with the golden voice whose life is guided by her faith in God is playing a musical nun who unexpectedly falls in love and marries. Will she ever find a more perfect role?
AN ANGELIC VOICE
Most people have only heard Underwood sing country songs, though Idol viewers who remember season four will recall the blonde girl from Checotah, Okla., performing Heart’s “Alone” and Pat Benatar‘s “Love Is a Battlefield,” as well as “Hello, Young Lovers” from The King and I (that same evening, Underwood’s buddy Anthony Fedorov sang “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”). On Thursday’s airing of The Sound of Music Live, Underwood reminded even the most untrained ear that she can sing any song she chooses and sing the heck out of it. There wasn’t only one voice in the show, of course, and the voice of Audra McDonald was notably stunning, especially on that song about the mountain.
The show’s transitions — a challenge for any live production — were almost like Underwood’s favorite TV series in real life, Star Trek: The Next Generation, where people beam from one location to another. Twice during the three-hour broadcast, viewers were creatively transported, first from the von Trapp estate to the abbey, and again from the family’s home to the concert hall, draped in banners displaying swastikas. It was a clever and surprising stage move that was much more magical than a simple cut or dissolve.
IT’S NOT THE MOVIE
It’s only natural that viewers compare the 2013 TV production to the beloved film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, but this was a different animal. Wisely, the producers resisted any temptation to retain the reordering of songs in the movie. It might have seemed strange to hear “My Favorite Things” sung by Maria and the Mother Abbess early in the show and “The Lonely Goatherd” in the bedroom during the thunderstorm with Maria and the children instead of during a puppet show, but that’s how it was in the original Broadway musical. Also, thankfully, songs featuring Max and Elsa that were deleted from the movie were restored, turning the spotlight on Christian Borle and Laura Benanti on “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It.” One song added to the motion picture was preserved, so the producers did, indeed, do “Something Good.”
THR contributor Fred Bronson is the author of The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook, the story of the seven actors who portrayed the von Trapp children in the Robert Wise-directed motion picture.
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