Carrie Underwood as Maria seemed most at ease on stage
when singing with the children.
Potential Chaos with No Safety Net
Like most live productions parts of the play delighted viewers while a few scenes caused some puzzled looks. From the opening I was more than a little concerned about the cheesy set. The background of fake aspen trees in the fake aspen forest caused flashbacks to building sets for high school productions. Nervously glancing around my living room, I almost expected a door to stick shut or a chandelier to crash to the floor. Once I got over the feeble outdoor set, I focused on the show. Later, I was relieved at the quality of the two other sets. The details of the grand open staircase seemed exquisite compared to the puny greenery of the mountainside.
The Carrie Underwood Non-controversy
In director's circles the timeless argument over actors versus singers persists. Once upon a time I think I said something like, I'd rather have a talented actress who can sing a little than a great singer who can't act. Another teacher usually responded with, No, that is a disaster. It's better to have an awesome singer without much acting experience. You can teach a singer to act but some actors will never be decent singers. I'm gonna betray myself on the theory of preferring a seasoned actor over a good singer. Carrie Underwood proved singing is more crucial than acting in this big number musical. Considering the number of songs she performed, the difficulty of the numbers and the confidence needed to pull it off on a live stage, Underwood's moxie made some of the critics stop licking their chops.
Before Underwood was ever tapped for the role by producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, doubters lined up whispering their typical classless snark. She only won a TV show; Big deal, she's not a real singer; the judges thought she was cute; it's not fair and other jealous drivel. If Hollywood haters can't admit Underwood's pipes hit the mark, they need to find real jobs. Her debut in musical theater was Audra McDonald, Carrie Underwood's vocals helped create the innocent character of Maria. Playing the innocent hard-working governess fit into her natural disposition making the lyrics believable. As far as acting is concerned, Underwood stood out during the scenes with the children. Her movements and dialogue transformed from stiff to second nature in all the numbers interacting with the von Trapp children.
Was the Captain Hunky Enough?
Here's the deal. Carrie Underwood is a singer. She never professed otherwise. Meron said he was impressed with her ability to learn quickly. She worked well with the cast and seemed a natural fit. The biggest problem-yes I said it, the biggest problem with Underwood's inexperience on stage was believability. No way did any sparks fly between her and Stephen Moyer, the captain. With all of the time Moyer has invested on television and theater stages, he made little or no effort to create any chemistry. Come to think of it, no electricity between his fiancée Laura Benanti's character, Frau Schraeder ever flickered. I'll pick Moyer as the battery in need of a charge. Both relationships for the good Captain von Trapp fell flat. Even the aggressive kiss Moyer stuck on Underwood's lips appeared to be forced and fake. He was okay as the anal-turned-loving father but not so much as the hunk two hot women wanted.
Go with the Flow of the Show
This show is a two-time viewing. The first time through the story too many distractions disrupt the flow. Commercial interruptions. The nature of the commercials. Snack break. Different scenes and songs contrasting the play and the movie. Some of the flow of the story slowed down during unfamiliar scenes. Beer break. Bathroom break.
Against the nature of my typical critical self, I must say I was quite delighted with the production. I still want to flash a neon sign explaining the differences between acting in a movie and preforming live theater. And the differences between the original script and a movie adaptation.
It is possible today's expect-to-be-instantly-entertained audience can't grasp the idea of no remote or a rewind button. Thank you. That bonus helped the magical sense of the story unfold live in an almost embarrassing sense of intimacy. Hopefully, enough viewers will push for more live productions like The Sound of Music Live! It's a perfect opportunity to have what's called quality family viewing time.