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NBC Network's "The Sound Of Music" Reviewed

Edelweiss???

I saw Rodgers And Hammerstein’s “The Sound Of Music” on Broadway in 1998 starring Rebecca Luker as Maria, Rebecca had starred in a terrific revival of “Showboat” four years earlier and she was just about at the top of my Broadway stars back then. 

Plus, like everybody I worshipped the 1965 Robert Wise movie production of the musical and while I had my doubts about anybody being capable of returning it to its Mary Martin roots, I had my hopes very high and it was a complete bore. Wise’s movie is so exothermic the entire show seemed tiny, seemed High School, it couldn’t fly. “Do Re Mi”, which during the movie explodes into glorious 1930s Salzburg, is static on stage. It seems gnomic even though what else can they do with it.

But at least they had Rebecca Luker who no, had nothing of Julie Andrews youthfulness and charm, nothing of Andrews sparkle and sass, but could sing the house down. The NBC Network production’s “Do Re Me”, performed live on television in front of an audience was small and gnomic as well and worse, country singer Carrie Underwood is no Rebecca, let alone a Julie.

This isn’t Carrie’s fault, NBC gave her the role, what was she supposed to do? But she is neither the singer nor the actress for the role and she weighs it down so much it is painful to watch. In the movie, Julie’s innocent novice is played hard against Christopher Plummer’s bitted, brooding, mourning Captain Von Trapp. In the scene in which they fall in love during the “Landler” dance, nothing is said, but the attraction is so strong and when the spell is broken it is like coming out of a dream. In the NBC version it is like Underwood and True Blood’s Stephen Moyer’s anemic Captain are at a State Fair. This is not the couple to compare to Julie and Plummer, Carrie doesn’t become a mile of  believeable. What were the producers thinking of? Underwood might not be brittle singing country (though the one time I saw her perform live she tripped over her ego for 45 minutes straight) but she is a tough cookie as Maria and Moyer has all the smoothness of a GQ model; they act like they met in a singles bar.

The change in song placements, which going straight back to the 1959 production, is very off putting, having my “My Favorite Things” (with Audra McDonald, easily the best singer of the night) duetting with Maria near the beginning of the show is very very off putting. I didn’t much care for Audra’s “Climb Every Mountain” on the recorded version of the album, it simply couldn’t compare with Peggy Wood’s soaring Mother Abbess, but next to these mostly professional but not showstopping performers, she really does stop the show.

Kudos to NBC Network for the entire concept, and yes, I didn’t like it, but Carrie sings her heart out and it is a caring, lovely production. “Showboat” next please.

Grade: C

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