EJ's take on entertainment and travel plus a few pointers in a fairly smart-for-old-person way

Thursday, November 28

The Sound of Music Live! Launches on NBC


 Underwood plays Maria in the live production
 of The  Sound of Music

Dec. 5 at 8 pm Eastern Time on NBC

Ignore Critics and Celebrate Theater

The popular classic movie, The Sound of Music, is about to venture into new territory. The 1965 movie is set to go live on television on NBC Dec. 5 at 8 PM.  While live theater on TV was common nearly half a century ago, advances in technology moved plays from the television stage to film. It's a whole new scene for viewers accustomed to watching TV and movies instead of spending a night at the theater. Besides the risky format, viewers will need to adjust to other changes compared to the classic film. One of the obvious changes are new cast members.

Browsing social media sites hints at a negative reaction to the new cast. While fans of the original cast question the roles of the newbies, their loyalty is misplaced.  Chalk it up to human nature. But, it's distracting from what should be a celebration of a live performance. Several tweets and posts reveal stubborn fans sending hate mail to cast members. These stuck-in-the-past critics need to keep an open mind.  Instead of judging the performance before it's aired, they should embrace the message in the classic story of The Sound of Music. No one can replace the original stars. That's not the goal. Those who are making it a competition should get over it. It's not.

The majority of the negative comments seem to be directed at singer Carrie Underwood who plays Maria. She is taking on the role made famous by the legendary Julie Andrews. But, small-minded critics seems to overlook the fact Andrews approves of the choice.  Giving Underwood her blessing in an interview with CBS, Andrews said, "Fifty years later, it's time somebody had another crack at it." Andrews also pointed to the many changes from the movie and the original script. 


Underwood as Maria with the von Trapp children.

Unfortunately, some critics are so close-minded they've already condemned the performances before they happen. Whether you are a fan of the original or a fan of Julie Andrews, at least watch the live version with an open mind.  Don't judge it as a failure before you even see the production. Of course, it won't be the same seeing others play familiar roles. Underwood is the first to admit she 'knows her place'.  "I know I'm not Julie. Nobody is and I would never pretend that I was," she commented. In other words, for those determined to criticize the play before they see it, either change your mind or change the channel.

The irony of hate tweets directed at Underwood is almost laughable. Carrie Underwood probably comes closer to the character of Maria than most singers/actresses. Growing up on a farm in a close Christian family in Oklahoma, she understands loyalty and hard work.Through her journey from clean-cut farm girl to word-famous singer she's remained humble.

Underwood may not have experience in musical theater but she is surrounded by some of the best. According to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the Grammy winning singer has worked extra hard to make her stage debut a success. Meron is confident in her ability. He is delighted at the way veteran actor Stephen Moyer took on the role of Captain von Trapp. Christopher Plummer played the naval hero in the classic movie.

Besides the cast, other typical differences in a movie version  include a shorter time frame. Scenes are rewritten or cut entirely. The NBC version of The Sound of Music Live! is based on the play, not the movie. The story of family and faith guiding the von Trapps to safety is not simply resurfaced with a different cast. Along with other deviations in the story, viewers will notice changes in the music as well. Fans of the original should consider the live television version as a complement and not a replacement to the familiar story. 

Julie Andrews, photo courtesy NBC
 NBC is betting the audience is ready to appreciate the live presentation. With no retakes, a mistake in lines or missed lyrics can send an otherwise great production straight to the dumpster. While a disaster is possible, a huge investment of the network's money and the cast's time should guarantee a solid show. The greater risk falls on the viewer's ability to adapt to all the changes and the three-hour time frame.

In anticipation of this innovative event maybe we could all buck the tendency to focus on the negative and enjoy The Sound of Music Live! as a bonus to the popular movie. In the spirit of the holiday season maybe we could reflect on the blessings in our own lives in America compared to the danger faced by the von Trapp family to escape the Nazis.  Just for a few hours maybe we could soak up some joy, celebrate family and appreciate seeing a lavish production of  live musical theater right in our living rooms. Maybe.