Friday, December 6, 2013

NBC's Sound of Music: Live! Yikes!

I was 6 when my father took us to see film version of The Sound of Music. Perhaps I should be, but I'm not embarrassed to admit I loved it - my favorite song being The Lonely Goatherd. I recall being simultaneously thrilled and terrified during the Nazi scene in the Abbey and had
nightmares about it for years. Several years later I heard the original cast recording Goatherd took a backseat to There's No Way to Stop It - not a particularly great song, but its rhythmic kick was appropriately unstoppable.

Years later I saw a stage production starring Roberta Peters as Maria along with the original Captain von Trapp, Theodore Bikel (who decades later still hadn't learned to sing).

I recorded last night's live presentation of The Sound of Music and just now watched it (blessedly speeding through an hour of Wal-Mart commercials) with a mixture of equal parts incredulity, fascination and horror, all mixed with a bit
of sentimental forgiveness. There's no getting around the fact that Carrie Underwood should never, ever again attempt to do anything but sing . . . and perhaps dance a Landler. Dreadful doesn't begin to describe the awkward, clipped delivery of Frau Maria's lines, which, to begin with, are hardly Ibsen, Shakespeare or Moss Hart. Pleasant enough of voice, she clearly wasn't coached in the correct style for this type of music, chopping off words, forgoing portamento in favor of a sterile crispness that stripped most of the songs of sentimentality - which in order to work, these songs absolutely demand.

Often, she appeared to be cribbing from teleprompters or cue cards at angles uncomfortably placed for so tiny a creature particularly when precariously perched on heels inconceivable for a recent former postulate gone wild. Her
opening number was similarly clipped and one could almost hear the director's voice screaming in her head: "Go here. Stand there. Turn right. Hug the tree."

I'd read a funny blog the day before that commented how one wished Audra McDonald could've played Maria. And the Captain. And Luisa. And been the whole damn show. Toss in Laura Benanti and I'd agree. Watching Underwood
play against stage pros like Benanti and McDonald felt like cruel and unusual punishment for all parties concerned, particularly the audience . . . or at least this audience.

While watching Stephen Moyer's game but lame attempt at Captain VT I kept thinking I can't possibly be the only one waiting for him to slip into a sloppy southern (American) accent as vampire fangs descend down his chin. The less
said about his singing the better. (And how nice to see nylon strings on a guitar in 1938 Austria.)

Michael Campayno's Nazi Youth Rolf was a highlight and a total hoot, there being a bit of a creepy factor watching a man who appears to be pushing 30 gotten up in lederhosen and knee socks, ever ready to goosestep or yodel.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching the presentation and applaud NBC's efforts for undertaking a monumental project and doing it all (sort of) live. I look forward to their upcoming presentation of Mame: Live! starring Celine Dion, Miley
Cyrus, Johnny Depp and Justin Bieber as Patrick.

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