Over the last two days since the airing of “The Sound of Music Live,” I have observed harsh criticism and cackling about Carrie Underwood and the actual production itself.
I could post thousands of these pieces of negative criticism about the show, but I won't - nor do I deny that I took part in some of the ridicule myself. On Thursday night, my friends and I were gasping at the poor acting on Facebook. We were questioning the hissing sound in the background. The comparisons to the original film were running rampant.
But wait. In hind sight and just mere days of the broadcast, I've had several realizations. First of all, this wasn’t a movie. This was a live production – a challenging feat for any network. And also, Carrie Underwood is not Julie Andrews. These are two silly comparisons - two that people on Twitter couldn't seem to get past. It's also true that the producers based this broadcast on the original play, which preceded the movie, but I don't think that anyone out there was comparing it to that.
We should all be praising NBC for even taking on the project in the first place....and for casting Carrie Underwood. They knew very well that she alone would bring in huge ratings across the country and more eyeballs to the screen. Here in NYC, where I live, she may not have a huge fan base, but she certainly does everywhere else in the country.
The result? 18.5 million people tuned in – many fans of the original like me who were anxious to relive the experience, and many young children and others who may never have experienced the original.
I’m in full agreement that with a different Maria, the program would have been far superior. Yet had the producers placed a Broadway great in the role like Kelli O’Hara or Idina Menzel (that would have been heaven), would so many people have watched it? We all know that America loves Carrie Underwood (ever since her American Idol days) and that she has a beautiful singing voice. Okay, she can’t act. But neither can Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame — and he IS an actor. I’m more worried about his career than hers!
It’s very true that the producers were smart to surround Underwood and Moyer with Broadway greats like Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle. I’m still humming “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” one of Rogers & Hammerstein’s most memorable songs ever written so beautifully sung by McDonald. The three actors added a real Broadway dimension to the show that Moyer and Underwood couldn’t pull off.
So, why am I writing in favor of the show today? Well, my daughter watched the first two hours with me and she was riveted. Believe me, she knows the original and she knows musicals (I take her to Broadway shows often) but because this was on TV, with actors and singers from the modern times, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m hoping that kids across America watched it, too, and want to go the theater as a result. That they want to audition for plays and want to be on stage. That they’ve been inspired and now appreciate theater even more than ever before. That Broadway ticket sales soar this holiday season as a result. That NBC and the other networks look to other classics like Oklahoma and My Fair Lady to the small screen and that they make other dramatic casting choices to get people talking and watching and tweeting and posting on Facebook.
I am a huge fan of the original, don’t get me wrong, and I do understand the criticisms. Carrie Underwood was robotic, she was dismal, but could YOU pull off playing Maria in a live performance?
Look beyond the actual program itself and what happened as a result of the conversation that is still taking place today (head over to Twitter and type in hash tag #SoundofMusicLive) and think about the impact it might have on the younger generation.
After all, we want them to be the ones carrying on the tradition of watching classic films like this one every year. We want them to bring plays like this one back the stage long after we’re gone. We want them to continue to go to the theater and get inspired by classics. We want the government to continue to support arts education.
For these reasons, I am thankful to NBC, the producers, the director and the actors for taking a leap and bringing The Sound of Music to the small screen.
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