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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Cast Is All Live with The Sound of Music

Recovering from a bad head cold, I have gotten used to hearing the Sound of Mucous. But here, in time for the holidays, comes The Sound of Music! People, rejoice! The score for the original musical is restored here in proper sequence in a faithful-to-the-play production by NBC television in the USA.

Now, I have previously expressed my reservations about this musical. Nazis chasing musical Christian families through the scenic Alps was simply and historically never a major issue, people, as this von Clap Trapp story might have you believe. Nonetheless, The Sound of Music has a great score and, at its heart, a sweet  and charming love story. All this comes across in NBC's live telecast.

Mary Martin, Sound of Music
On Facebook, during the show, there were many unfavorable comparisons to the 1965 smash-hit film version that starred Julie Andrews. However, perhaps people don't recall the fact that that now-classic motion picture musical received mixed reviews at the time of its release with unfavorable comparisons to the original Broadway hit. Julie Andrews was no Mary Martin many purists and detractors pointed out. Judith Crist called the film "icky-sticky” and declared "The movie is for the 5-to-7 set and their mommies who think the kids aren’t up to the stinging sophistication and biting wit of ‘Mary Poppins.’" Pauline Kael, meanwhile, might have been even harsher, calling Robert Wise's movie "the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies."

I watched the film in the comfort of my friend and downstairs neighbor, Kevin's, living room. We kicked back, had a bit of a pizza party and just relaxed, both enjoying the experience despite the haters.

Carrie Underwood certainly did not have the acting chops required for the lead role though her voice was pure and strong and more than sufficient as far as the singing was concerned. I don't know what other "name" could draw in an audience who might be a more suitable Maria. I'd love for Broadway diva Kristin Chenowith to assay the role but she is too long in the tooth for the ingenue. Carrie carried on, a trooper, with the requisite clean-cut image, verve and vocals.

However, I must point out that there is the hair issue regarding both Underwood and Andrews in my opinion. To me, hair and hairstyling is the key to inhabiting any role; such is my aproach to Method acting. I am my hair, damn it! The nuns of The Sound of Music sing that "[U]nderneath her wimple/ She has curlers in her hair...." Doesn't it stand to reason, therefore, that Maria would have curly locks?

Julie Andrews sported a pixie cut, sort in keeping with the church's shorn-hair-for-sisters aesthetic. Carrie has a head full of piled-up, luxurious braids! I can hardly imagine these under a wimple without looking like someone out of central casting as an alien on Star Trek.

I was impressed with many things about the NBC production, though. First of all, it's the first attempt to give us live musical theater on television in over 50 years. Production values were solid all around, from recording quality to choreography to  the warm theatrical lighting and attractive sets on what had to be a very large soundstage at the studio.

Carrie Underwood's rendition of the title song was marvelous but, even more so, Audra McDonald's powerhouse rendition of "Climb Every Mountain," which moved her co-star to tears. Underwood was in character but her teardrops were real. A great moment of the awesome power of live tv.

Broadway veterans Laura Benanti (Gypsy with Patti Lupone) and Christian Borle (tv's Smash) were quite effective in supporting parts, especially in a duet excised from the film version. Steven Moyer's stage/television presence was not suitably strong enough for the Captain von Trapp role and, unfortunately, he came across as lusterless and blah. Ariane Reinhart's Leisl was in fine voice, however, and an improvement over her movie counterpart.

A dvd of this production will be released on Dec. 17 while the soundtrack cd is available via Walmart.













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