Wow! I haven’t written since Thanksgiving? Long time no write! Times have definitely been busy, and even now my wife and I are traveling around enjoying the blessing of getting to counsel and visit with folks here in the area. But in our travels, we ended up seeing the rearing of “The Sound of Music Live!” last night. Well, part of it. A few parts of it. (I am a notorious channel changer. It’s not about what’s on, after all, it’s about what you might be missing!)
I’m fond of commenting on news items that everyone else is already bored with, so I thought this would be a nice topic, and I definitely do have some thoughts.
I know leading up to the first broadcast of the musical, there was a lot of grumbling about casting Carrie Underwood. Perhaps there was grumbling about her costar, Stephen Moyer, I don’t know. I’ve been unplugged a bit as of late. And, frankly, I thought their acting was a bit subpar (Ms. Underwood a little less than dynamic and Mr. Moyer a bit overwrought. If their performances could have been mathematically averaged together, I think the result would be about right.) At the same time, I only saw some selected scenes, and probably not the scenes that played to their strengths. I still enjoyed what I saw, and they didn’t change that.
Actually, that’s what I’d like to focus on: What I liked about “The Sound of Music Live!”
First, it was great to see something so wholesome and wonderful on television. I am a fan of “The Sound of Music,” and a number of other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, and the idea of such a production being given such a prominent spot on national television and its performance being considered such a large event is so encouraging. I am aware that Mr. Moyer is associated with another television product that falls into a much more negative spiritual category, so it was nice to see him getting this work. And it was nice to see Ms. Underwood doing something so worthwhile and taking a risk. (More on risk later.)
Also, it was great to see live theater being given such a huge audience. Those who lamented the choice of Ms. Underwood who also love musical theater should be happy she was willing to do it. Like I said, it was a risk–even ignoring the fact that you are playing one of the most beloved musical characters of all time and your viewers will be comparing you and your performance to one of the most beloved performances and performers of all time–yet it is undeniable, I believe, that her presence in the production is a big part of what gave it a huge audience. Some may have come to it with excitement about her casting, some out of morbid curiosity, but regardless the effect was the same. A lot of people were exposed to what it means to watch a live musical performance, including a new generation’s being introduced to one of the best musicals out there, and I think that is a good thing.
In particular, I enjoyed it because it was risky — the risk that is always there with live performances and musicals in particular. Even with my sub-par singing voice, I have been in many musicals thanks to my days in high school theater, and the experience was a wonderful blessing. Starring in our high school production of the King and I was one of the greatest formative experiences of my life. There is such a rush to performing on stage like that — it is a pressure-filled, exhilerating experience to performing without a safety net like that and succeeding. And there is something exciting about watching a live performance. I really don’t believe that it is morbid anticipation of seeing someone make a mistake, although that is probably an appeal for some. There is just an excitement, knowing that what you are seeing is happening “now” (or, a re-aired “now” as in my case) that connects you to the performance in a way that pre-recorded performances just don’t capture.
It was a risk — both for the performers and for the network. But it paid off great.
Just two more things, then I need to skedaddle. (Does anyone say “skedaddle” anymore?)
The performances of the supporting actors and actresses, children included, were excellent. I only saw a few: the children, Max (Christian Borle), Elsa (Laura Benanti), and the Climb Every Mountain Nun (Audra MacDonald). On the last three, as Tony Award winners, no one should be surprised they did so well, but it should still be mentioned. I really enjoyed their performances.
And finally, the production, itself. The camera angles, movements, and timing, the beautiful sets, the lighting — it was a great example of how live theater can be done successfully on live television, and the team that planned all of that deserve kudos. I believe they did a remarkable job that impressed me from moment to moment.
Gotta go! And, yes, even though I have just critiqued a musical, I am still a man. Thanks for asking. 🙂