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Television / Theater PopWrapped | Television

The Hills Are Alive: A Review of "The Sound of Music: Live!"

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


12/06/2013 4:18 pm
PopWrapped | Television
The Hills Are Alive: A Review of
Media Courtesy of NBC

Shelby Arnold

Staff Writer

If you're like me, you spent your childhood watching movies with your parents or grandparents on VHS tapes in the evenings and on weekends when nothing was on TV. Or, you managed to catch the original Sound of Music on the many repeats over the years. Last night, a new generation of children were introduced to a brand new production of the beloved classic. Now, stalwarts of Julie Andrews, be reminded, this production was not a remake of the film but rather a rendition of the stage play which originally opened in 1959 with Mary Martin. The film was first released in 1965 with Andrews and Christopher Plummer. At any rate, this adaptation was solid albeit a tiny bit flat, and borrowed a few things from the film as well as the stage production. Carrie Underwood proved herself as more than a simple country singer which is a good thing but other than that, she was perhaps the only low part of the performance. More on her later, though. NBC tried something daring last night that networks and producers haven't tried in nearly 50 years; that in itself is a wonderful feat. What's even more wonderful is that the risk paid off for NBC. Happily for the nearly 18.5 million viewers who turned in, the magical performance went off without a hitch. The only technical problem I noticed (as a former theatre performer myself) was that the mics cut out and fizzed a bit while people were speaking. Compared to what could've gone wrong, this was very minor and hardly noticeable. The set for the show was absolutely beautiful; lush and full, I wish all theatre productions had the studio and stage available to them for something this large because it certainly paid off. Gone were the tricky set/scene changes that provide more room for error. However, being filmed in a studio definitely had its drawbacks. The electricity that comes from performing in front of a live audience was missing; there was no feedback, which made scenes fall flat and the few jokes in the script also fell flat because of that. Though I'd imagine if there had been an audience, the performances of the actors would've been a bit more shaky. Stephen Moyer, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald and Christian Borle rounded out the star studded cast with Moyer playing the Captain, Benanti as Elsa Schrader, McDonald as Mother Superior and Borle as Max Detweiler. While Underwood's singing was, as always, good, her acting left little to be desired. There was no chemistry between Captain von Trapp and Maria which meant the entire romance aspect of the show was lost. All was not lost, however, with the children and Maria. There was genuine admiration there and it shone through on the musical numbers and interactions with all seven children. Benanti and Borle were beyond stellar in their roles as the Baroness who loved von Trapp and the cynically happy Detweiler. They literally stole the show. Their voices were decidedly more geared toward the "musical" element, flowing with character and their chemistry was truly off the charts. It should've been The Max & Elsa Show. Another cast member who stole the show was the superbly talented Audra McDonald. I have never been more blown away by the song “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” as I was by her rendition. It was powerful and emotional and beautiful. Truly a showstopper for a performer who is just as showstopping. Moyer has the cross, apathy down to a "T" thanks to True Blood and, while his voice was strong and quite lovely, his acting seemed forced and stilted but perhaps it was just nerves. Live performances are scary things. The last thing I have to quibble over is the song “Something Good”. It was originally written for the movie version and should never have been in this version. I'm not sure what NBC and the producers gained from adding the song but it just didn't work. I maintain that the original stage song “An Ordinary Couple” works better for the stage than “Something Good”. Why stray from a classic? All in all, The Sound of Music: Live was an ambitious move for NBC that thankfully paid off. While Underwood's performance felt like the weakest of the night, it was offset by a fabulous set and fabulous supporting characters played by McDonald, Benanti, Borle and Moyer. What did you think, Popwrappers? Was this performance a “favorite thing” or will you stick with the original from now on? Sound off below!


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