The Hills are Alive With Something
So tonight was the live broadcast of The Sound of Music. If you follow me on Twitter (which you should) you will know I live tweeted the whole event. It was a truly special experience. But here is what I am going to do. I am going to give my review of the performance as a whole, now, while it is still fresh in my mind.
I will openly admit I came into this with a lot of skepticism. I love Carrie Underwood as an artist but I was pretty positive she wouldn’t be able to make the role memorable. However I will say she did a good job with the role. She had some strong moments as a vocalist, some strong moments as an actress, and in general delivered Maria. Her “High on a Hill” was a really great moment (partially because it has more of that country feel to it). Also “Something Good”, a number that I listened to Andrews and Plummer do over and over, was very good. It can’t be denied that, even if she had a few rough patches, Underwood can sing. The set was overall pretty good (with the exception of the one mountain that looked the same in every outdoor scene). The whole show seemed to flow very well from scene to scene.
Audra McDonald was as close to flawless as I think a performance can be. While the lighting guys did her a disservice by not lighting her face, she completely blew through any race-based misconceptions people probably had about her playing a traditionally white role. Similarly Laura Benanti, a performer who I truly respect and think the world of, murdered the role of Elsa. She was stunning beyond description. Plus she had the added difficulty of bringing songs to the world that weren’t in the movie and most audience members didn’t know. That leads me to my main point.
1) This was a performance of the stage version of the show. The stage version of the show, as is the case with many, many shows, is different than the movie. That’s why the goatherd had no creepy puppets. So comparing this production to the movie is already inherently flawed. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Let the record show that the musical came out before the movie. So technically the performance in the film is not the “original”.
2) It’s a revival of a show. Shows are revived on a pretty consistent basis. That’s part of creating a piece of work. You don’t get to control who plays the role in the future. Think about how many times someone has revived a role that was played by a different, iconic actor. But the key is that they put a different spin on the character. Patina Miller just won a Tony for reviving a role originally played by Ben Vereen. I’m pretty sure there is no better example of “adding your own spin on a character” than changing the gender. But that is part of what makes Patina’s role so amazing. So yes… Carrie Underwood doesn’t sing like Julie Andrews. And she doesn’t sing like Mary Martin (who was the original Maria Von Trap before Andrews). But there were some parts of the role that I think sounded great, although different, with Underwood’s fuller voice. That’s the part that should be celebrated.
So in conclusion (and every writing teacher I had in school just gagged that I used that phrase) the production was cool. It was a huge production that brought musical theatre to people who normally wouldn’t see it. Anyone with NBC got to see multiple Tony and Grammy award winners perform for free. And was this the 1965 movie? No. But it was its own interesting adaptation and revival of the show and the cast, crew, and creative team should be applauded on a job well done.
I hope you all enjoyed a night of musical theatre magic… or something like that. And let me know what your thoughts are on this. I know I’m not a musical expert, but these are my thoughts. I’m going to go watch the Will and Grace, Sound of Music episode.