Two years ago, Bill Maher suggested on an episode of Real Time that TV would soon become one long show called CSI: Vampire Idol. Well, NBC's live production of The Sound of Music last night wasn't far off. They took one of the greatest musicals in Broadway history and paired it with two people who have benefited the most from the vampire and singing-contest crazes of late: American Idol Season Four winner Carrie Underwood (as Maria) and True Blood star Stephen Moyer (as Capt. Von Trapp). The three-hour event inspired multiple drinking games (like this one, or this one, or that one), incurred mass online confusion by the lack of marionettes during "The Lonely Goatherd" (this was the stage version, not the film version) and may just have brought the dirndl back into style. But was it any good?
Depends on your definition of "good." If by good you mean it engaged the Twittersphere in the kind of nonstop live tweets usually reserved for awards shows then, yes, The Sound of Music Live! can be considered a success. It was by no means a train wreck, and there were plenty of pleasant surprises (Vampire Bill can sing?), but aside from the novelty of being the first live staged musical on TV in over 50 years, this latest incarnation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic had me yearning for Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and the good ol' days of 1965. Read on for Rolling Stone's roundup of what we found to be "Something Good" about this particular incarnation of SOM, and what made us want to say "So Long, Farewell" instead.
My Favorite Things
The Broadway Veterans Ruled
It happened to Julie Andrews herself back in 1964: The accomplished stage actress is thrown over for the leading role in the film version of My Fair Lady (which she created on Broadway) in favor of Hollywood royalty Audrey Hepburn. Star power sells, and that's why Carrie Underwood was cast as Maria while seasoned Broadway pros (and Tony Award winners) Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle were relegated to supporting roles. But, despite their lack of household names, McDonald, Benanti and Borle regularly upstaged Underwood and Moyer with their seemingly effortless performances. Benanti and Borle infused song back into the roles of Elsa Schrader and Max Detweiler (neither character sang in the film version of SOM), with Smash alum Borle eliciting the only (intentional) laughs of the entire production. And McDonald, as the Mother Abbess, totally earned her right to drop the mic with her rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
Stephen Moyer can sing!
For all I know, I'm suffering from the aftereffects of glamouring, but Stephen Moyer without a doubt proved to the world that he's more than just a charismatic vampire with a God complex and a syrupy drawl. He's a damn fine singer too! Whether it was joining the Von Trapp moppets in the middle of "The Sound of Music," holding his own with Laura Benanti and Christian Borle during "No Way to Stop It" or eliciting pathos while singing "Edelweiss," Moyer gave hope to the millions of True Blood fans that Bill Compton will bust out into song sometime next season. Your move, Skarsgård. Note to Truebies: Anyone else hoping that Eric and Godric were going show up as the SS officers escorting Capt. Von Trapp to his new naval position?
Laura Benanti's slinky black ball gown
Capt. Von Trapp may ultimately prefer women who sing about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but I challenge anyone, male or female, whose jaw didn't drop to the floor when Elsa Schrader descended the stairs in this body-hugging number. Maria could've at least asked the departing Elsa for some fashion tips before becoming the next Baroness Von Trapp.
My Not So Favorite Things
Carrie Underwood and the Underused Head Voice
Just because you can belt a note, doesn't mean you should. I counted a good 38 minutes into the broadcast before Underwood eased up on the chest voice and moved into falsetto for the final bars of "Do-Re-Mi." Also, never try to overpower Audra McDonald in a duet. Because you'll lose. Badly. There is no doubt of Underwood's talent as a singer, but as someone with no musical-theater background, she was sorely out of her league, especially in a role as demanding as Maria Von Trapp. She was out of breath by the end of "Do-Re-Mi," and unlike her Broadway-caliber co-stars, her performance was dripping with visible effort.
It's a fine art, musical theater. Who cares if you're a great CMA host and can sing hilarious Christmas parodies? That doesn't automatically make you capable of carrying a three-hour Rodgers and Hammerstein production. The only time Underwood looked remotely comfortable was when the pre-recorded track came on over the speakers and she realized she could stop talking for the next three minutes. But at least she had a reason for her wooden performance – she's never acted before. What was Stephen Moyer's excuse? Dude, you're the star of one of the most violent, sexual and histrionic shows on TV!
"Sixteen Going on Seventeen": The Pervy Version
The scene took place in the woods, Rolfe looked like he was 17 going on 40 (not to mention those short shorts) and Liesl wore a sailor dress (nowhere near as sexy as the diaphanous pink number Charmian Carr donned in the film version). The whole number screamed "Hello Little Girl" from Into the Woods. At least the smooch (and subsequent roll in the grass) was hotter than the quickie peck in the movie.
Stephen Moyer stared at a beautiful blonde with a fondness for aprons for three hours straight and he couldn't throw the Trubies a bone?
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