January 1, 2014
"My Favorite Things" About The Sound of Music LIVE
The Sound of Music is probably my all-time favorite musical, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear about plans for a live TV broadcast this December. A few weeks have passed since the live performance aired on NBC and there has been a lot of "buzz" (for lack of a better word) about the quality of the production and some of the individual performances. I think this "buzz" has died down a bit, and so this might be a better time to cautiously assert my own opinion regarding the live performance. One of my favorite aspects of live theatre is the ability to see the same story replayed and re-imagined by different actors and actresses, sometimes within the same production (as with an understudy or replacement actor) or in a brand new production, years or generations after the story's inception (as with The Sound of Music Live or any revival). In either situation, I love the variety that live theatre provides. A particular story is never precisely the same from one performance to the next. Some people embrace variety and other people don't. Non-theatre-goers often criticize me for seeing a particular play or musical multiple times. "Why would you want to see Wicked eleven times? Or Memphis and Next to Normal five times?" Why indeed. Because a show is never exactly the same. The story-telling, the energy, the meaning are always a bit different. And I love this.
But I digress. Overall, I felt positively about NBC's production of The Sound of Music. I thought that some very wise casting choices were made, specifically, Christian Borle, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, Christiane Noll, and all of the children. And as I stated above, I really enjoyed watching a new interpretation of the musical and its beloved characters. In the spirit of keeping the commentary positive, I've listed some of "my favorite things" (yup, I said it) about The Sound of Music Live below.
1.) Carrie Underwood's singing
She may not be an acclaimed actress, but I enjoyed hearing a unique interpretation of the familiar score. No one can argue that Carrie Underwood is not a talented singer. The style of her singing is vastly different from Julie Andrews, and I enjoyed a more modern and perhaps younger approach to the role in general. With some hard work and acting lessons, she could be a future musical theatre performer. Let's root for her to improve and shine!
2.) The Goatherd song
My true confession. I love the goatherd song. Of all of Maria's songs, I thought this one was performed and staged the best. Who knew Carrie Underwood could yodel?
3.) Broadway actors
I love that NBC cast some real theatre actors in this Broadway musical. In my opinion, it was the talented group of Broadway actors that really shone in this production. Laura Benanti was absolutely fantastic as Elsa; in fact, this was the first version of The Sound of Music in which I didn't hate Elsa because Benanti seemed to tap into her human side. Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess was perfection.
4.) The Attention
It's not every day that a major TV network airs a live musical. Musical theatre is rarely awarded any attention on network television, with the exception of the annual Tony Awards. Further, not every American is fortunate to live near New York City or another major city where the National Tours of Broadway shows perform. For some Americans, especially children, NBC's production of The Sound of Music may be their first exposure to musical theatre. It essentially allows access to musical theatre for millions of Americans who would otherwise be unexposed. I hope that my fellow theatre-goers understand the value of this. The fact that NBC is planning on airing other live musicals in the future is critical in supporting the arts in this country. And hopefully, the day will come when major television networks don't need to cast celebrities to improve ratings. (I'm not sure if this is realistic, but one can dream…)