My cable and internet were down for several hours last night, so I didn’t watch NBC’s production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. I will, therefore, not comment on any particular performance. My comment is people’s outrage that anyone would do a new version of the musical. As much as I enjoy the film version of this show, it’s not the original version. The film was rewritten to showcase Julie Andrews just as the stage musical had been written to showcase the talents of Mary Martin. The “Lonely Goatherd” number is only there because Martin had taken yodeling lessons as a youngster. Most live versions I have seen have been a mash-up of both versions and this seems to be common because the orchestrations of all the songs, even songs that appear in only the stage or film versions originally, are available in both the soprano and mezzo keys.
What bothers me, aside from the obvious ignorance on my twitter feed that this show exists outside the film version, is the idea that only Julie Andrews could perform the role of Maria. Having seen some fine stage productions of this show, I can inform you that as good as Andrews was in this role, she is not the only performer who sang and acting the crap out of it. I wish they had cast someone with more singing and acting training that Ms. Underwood, but clearly they were shooting for a younger audience who wouldn’t know the Broadway stars who would have knocked this out of the park. I will say that singers who want to act should take serious acting training and then take small roles in very good productions to gain some experience. Underwood had never so much been in a high school play so anything short of a disaster is probably amazing under the circumstances. it’s not too late to undo the damage. Mariah Carey seems to have learned from the mistake of her ill-fated Glitter project and now takes small but showy parts in movies like Precious and The Butler. I don’t know if Carey took acting classes or coachings prior to those parts but it wouldn’t surprise me as she gave solid performances in both that any actor would have been proud of.
I think live performances of musicals and plays on TV is a great idea. I’d like to see more of them. From the controversy over this one it seems people watched. Perhaps next time they should pick a popular show without such an iconic film version. And find people who have experience both as singers and actors. But chastising NBC for doing it at all gives me the sadz. No play, musical or opera should be frozen forever in a single performance. To suggest so negates the entire point of live theater and music. There can be no definitive Sound of Music any more than there can be a definitive performance of Swan Lake, La Boheme or Death of a Salesman. If that is so, we should just quit now and stay home and watch DVDs. No. I look forward to fresh takes on classical material and will continue to do so.