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The Sound of Music Recap

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Update: See the entire show below

Does this sound like The Sound of Music to you?

The Sound of Music is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with no overture. Instead there is the first of 22 songs (see song list at bottom) — and it’s not one you’ve hummed a thousand times, like Do-Re-Me (Do a deer, a female deer, re, a drop of golden sun…”), or The Sound of Music (The hills are alive with …). It’s called  Preludium, and it’s sung in Latin….and in a convent. Yet, thanks to Audra McDonald, it turned out to be a great start — even a highlight.

Another highlight: Audra McDonald singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain. Here’s a video of her doing it earlier at Rockefeller Center. Believe it or not, her live performance in the musical tonight was even more moving and powerful.

McDonald played Mother Abbess, which demonstrates what a person of such talent as McDonald can make out of a usually thankless role.

What about the rest of the Sound of Music, the three hour special on NBC?

The idea for a live, stage-version production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, based on the true story of the von Trapp family, came from the two creators of “Smash,”  Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. They recalled from their childhood the memorable live television events of Mary Martin performing in Peter Pan and Julie Andrews in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. And there is no question there was anticipation and excitement in the idea of such an event, even a manufactured one — enhanced rather than undermined by the opportunity to share the experience through Twitter. (The cast did have the unfortunate timing of having to perform just a few hours after the major downer of an actual event.)

It was also smart to use the stage version, which differs from the movie in interesting ways — darker, with a couple of songs omitted from the movie — although only true aficionados might notice. The production also benefited from a luscious design — both the costumes by Catherine Zuber and the set by Derek McLane — and some first-rate players, most of whom had the good fortune of being both major theatrical talents and also familiar faces on television. Above all, besides Audra LauraBenantionTVMcDonald,  this meant Laura Benanti, who played Elsa, the elegant rival for Captain von Trapp’s affection — so fabulous in Zuber’s ensembles that you wondered why the Captain would leave her for the pig-tailed youngster.  But it was a treat as well to see such stage pros like Christian Borle (best-known for Smash but and eight-time veteran of Broadway, most recently in Peter and the Starcatcher) and Kristine Nielsen (who was so wonderful in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) work their magic through six sets captured in the moment by a dozen cameras.

Click on photographs to see them enlarged

But Meron and Zadan seemed to miss a major lesson from the 1950s shows they remembered so fondly. Those shows starred Mary Martin and Julie Andrews.

On NBC, Carrie Underwood, the American Idol winner and country singer, played the lead role of Maria, the would-be nun who becomes a governess to seven motherless and insufferably adorable children, introducing music into a saddened household and falling in love with their father and her employer, the Captain. When Underwood was announced for the role made famous by Mary Martin on Broadway and Julie Andrews in the movie, there was a lot of nay-saying and snark. But the nay-sayers turned out to be largely on target.

Granted, there were some songs Underwood handled well, such as “The Lonely Goatherd” with all the yodeling.

Indeed, her singing was not the problem. It was her acting; she was never believable as Maria. To put this charitably, as my colleague Kevin Daly did, Carrie Underwood might have been better served by a TV version of Annie Get Your Gun, which would have played more to her strengths.

The publicity machine surrounding this “Sound of Music” made sure to let us know that, though Stephen Moyer may be known only as a vampire on True Blood, he has an extensive background in the theater; he’ even sung on stage. This may be, but his Captain seemed to me like a petulant wooden soldier compared to the easy authority of Christopher Plummer in the part in the 1965 movie, even though I haven’t seen that Julie Andrews vehicle in decades.

Was “The Sound of Music” a success? Will it mark the return of live theater to television? That surely will depend on the Nielsen ratings, and I don’t mean Kristine’s.

I call this a recap rather than a review, because nobody reads theater reviews, and everybody seems to consume television recaps avidly.

Songlist:

Preludium

The Sound of Music

My Favorite Things

Do-Re-Mi

Sixteen Going on Seventeen

The Lonely Goatherd

How Can Love Survive?

Reprise: The Sound of Music

he Grand Waltz

Landler

So Long, Farewell

Climb Ev’ry Mountain

No Way To Stop It

Something Good

Processional and Maria (The Wedding)

Reprise: Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Reprise: Do-Re-Me (the Concert)

Edelweiss (The Concert)

Reprise: So Long, Farewell (The Concert)

Finale Ultimo: Climb Ev’ry Mountain

End Credits

Update: The Sound of Music dominated the ratings for the entire three hours it aired. Roughly 18.5 million people saw it — better than any three-hour period on NBC in almost 10 years — and about 50 percent more than the attendance at all shows on Broadway for an entire year.

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The Sound of Music on NBC — video trailer

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Here is a 31-second video (not counting the 30-second ad) of Carrie Underwood in NBC’s production of Rodger and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, which will be broadcast on December 5, 2013. It includes a few seconds each of Carrie Underwood and Audra McDonald singing, and Christian Borle clowning around. Stephen Moyer might be in there too, but I didn’t spot Laura Benanti.

Adele, Rufus Wainwright and Lady Gaga: Wanted on Broadway

Adele Rufus GagaAdele, Rufus Wainwright and Lady Gaga were the singer/songwriters picked most often in answer to the questions:  What singer/songwriter would you like to see writing a show for Broadway, and/or performing in one? What would the show be about?  Bruce Springsteen and Madonna were close behind.

KinkyBootsposterThe questions were asked in a contest to win tickets to Kinky Boots, a musical opening in April on Broadway with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, making her Broadway songwriting debut.  More than 100 people responded, and their answers were greatly varied, from Jay Z to Norah Jones to Johnny Rotten to Scissor Sisters to Weird Al Yankovic.

The winner of the tickets, Rachel Hadley, picked Carrie Underwood. (Rachel won not because of her choice, but because her order in answering was selected at a drawing on Random.org). Now Rachel adds: “I want her as the writer with Megan Hilty as the star. She’s already written songs for Hilty, and I think anything those two do together would be amazing.” (Why didn’t she say this for the contest?  “I ended up getting distracted (stupid work) and didn’t have enough time to elaborate.”)

The varied answers were instructive — surely proof that “Broadway” doesn’t have to be one musical genre, despite what Randy Jackson on American Idol might think.

But there were some favorites. Of the 112 responses, five each went for Adele, Rufus Wainwright and Lady Gaga; 4 each went to Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. Others selected multiple times included David Bowie and Prince.

Some of the entries:

ADELE2Jacob (@ohjustjake) wrote:
“I would love Adele to write a musical. Obviously it would be about a break up, but I feel it would be about a woman’s journey from that break up to being an even stronger woman. Adele is such a powerful songwriter that I feel she would write songs that everyone would be able to relate to.”
Ted Thompson:
I would love to see Rufus Wainwright write a show. It would be about a pouty self centered though sensitive boy in the process of trying to straighten out his life meets boy and his world opens up and he changes. He could star or Jonathan Groff could star in it.
Brad Widener:
I would love to see Lady Gaga write music for a musical. It would be about a gay guy struggling to overcome his drug addiction while fighting his way to fame.

bruce springsteenKristen Pilecki:
It would absolutely be a Bruce Springsteen musical – not jukebox, but at least written by him. Subject matter? Angsty.

Andy Scott:
Bruce Springsteen [writing a musical] about a family affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Brad Buchholtz

metallica

Metallica could create an outstanding show using their hits as well as new songs. With many of their songs based around fighting and battles, this show could be focused around war. It could be focused on soldiers going out to battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, their trials and tribulations, and about survival. I’d be the first in line
Shane Wright:
I think Fun. would write a great musical. Their music is so theatrical already!

Cougar Perry:
I would love to see Grace Jones write and perform in a show on Broadway. It could be called Nightclubbing and all about her club days in NYC. Recreate moments like when Keith Haring painted her body in white tribal body paint for her performance at Paradise Garage in 1985!

Jill Scott

Cynthia Jimenez:
I would say Jill Scott. She’s beautiful, earthly, poetic, artsy, I would say maybe a show with a combination of dance and poetry, kids coming out of poor homes, homes with both parents, being in gangs when their only freedom is poetry and dance and Jill Scott leads them the way .I would love to see performances from different ethnicity
Regina Zanghi:
I would love to see Carly Simon write a play and maybe even star in it on Broadway about her life, music and loves. With the big finale being the reveal of who “You’re So Vain,” was really written about! ;)

For the complete list, scroll down to Comments section of Kinky Boots ticket giveaway contest