Carrie Underwood Shines in ‘The Sound of Music Live!’
NBC’s live theatrical broadcast of ‘The Sound of Music’ was not without mistakes common in live theater, but one would need to be a student of Broadway to have caught them. Carrie Underwood and a cast of theater and television actors stayed true to the spirit of the musical, making seamless adjustments for Thursday night’s (Dec. 5) adaptation.
The musical’s plot follows an unlikely romance that blossoms amidst Germany’s takeover of Austria during World War II. Underwood played Maria, a young woman who dreams of joining Nonnberg Abbey until she’s ordered to become a governess for the children of Captain von Trapp (Stephen Moyer). Maria falls for the seven children first, teaching them to sing while sewing them new play-clothes out of old curtains. Then, during a dance with the Captain, she falls hard for him.
Underwood grew stronger through the first hour of the three-hour ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ broadcast, and by the time the children gathered for the bedroom thunderstorm scene, she seemed as comfortable in front of the television cameras as she did beneath the hot lights of the Blown Away Tour in 2013.
An irritating hiss dogged the production however, and while it was less noticeable during portions of the show, it never completely disappeared.
Moyer (of ‘True Blood’ fame) and actress Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess) were the strongest actors in the live production. ‘Climb Every Mountain’ was a vocal highlight of the show, while Moyer’s acting held it all together. Laura Benanti as Elsa Schrader was also very strong, as were the seven von Trapp children. Joe West as Kurt von Trapp hit his high notes, much to the delight of fans following along on Twitter.
A few songs were moved from the original production and Julie Andrews’ 1965 movie version of ‘The Sound of Music.’ ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ was the most noticeable variation, but these changes didn’t interrupt the musical’s flow. Some of the best acting came during the dinner party scene, and then the last hour, when the Nazi invasion became more imminent.
Underwood’s acting was not as strong as some of the others in the cast, with her first kiss with Captain von Trapp feeling particularly forced. She was at her best while grieving, or when she was involved with the children. As a singer, she was as strong as anyone in the cast. The yodeling and lilting high notes in ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ were just one example of her vocal prowess.
Commercial interruption no doubt helped keep the musical on track, but even the ads were weaved into the evening. There were a few gaffes — Underwood stumbled early on during ‘The Sound of Music,’ for example — but there was nothing major to distract one from the action, aside from the aforementioned audio issues.
In the end, ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ ended exactly as it should (well, almost — ‘Climb Every Mountain’ played instead of the theme song), with the von Trapps escaping safely to Switzerland with the help of the nuns at Nonnberg Abbey. NBC says it hopes to repeat the $9 million production at least once. They’ll gain additional revenue from the soundtrack and DVD.