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Thoughts on NBC’s Sound of Music Live!

The Sound of Music Live!On Thursday, December 5, 2013, NBC broadcast a live performance, The Sound of Music Live!, starring Carrie Underwood, Laura Benanti, Stephen Moyer, and Audra MacDonald, among others.

Here are my personal observations from the performance, for those who care:

  1. We generally prefer what we’re familiar with (for most of us, that’s the Julie Andrews version). What’s more, we can struggle to be objective — to measure both performances against a neutral standard. Instead, we’re subjective and measure what we’re seeing for the first time against what we already know and like. That’s human nature.
  2. Almost always, a filmed version will be more polished than a live version. First, the singers can record their singing in a studio, where they’re standing still for maximum breath support, where they can re-do part of a song that they don’t like, etc. Even further, it’s possible to dub other voices. Christopher Plummer didn’t actually sing in the film version; Bill Lee was the singer, and his voice was dubbed over Plummer’s lip syncing. Second, when it’s not a live performance, they can perform many takes of the same scene, and a producer can splice together the best sequences, camera angles, etc.
  3. The stage version came first. The Julie Andrews film version is an adaptation of the stage version. So I think it’s disingenuous to say that last night’s production wasn’t like “the original” if you’re comparing it to the film version.
  4. If you want to talk about how last night’s version was “changed from the original,” I think it’s important to understand how any version of Sound of Music is “changed from the true original.” For example, Captain Von Trapp and Maria were married in 1926, not right before the German Anschluss. Maria was brought in to tutor just one child, not as a governess for all of the children. The Von Trapps did not escape by climbing over the Alps — because Captain Von Trapp was actually considered an Italian citizen (long story), they left by train in the middle of the day. There are many more differences, and I can provide links to further documentation, if you like.
  5. I thought Carrie Underwood did fine. It wasn’t all we hoped for, but it also highlights what a rare gem Julie Andrews was (not implying that Julie is dead, but that her days of performing like this are over).
  6. I thought the children were very good.
  7. I thought Audra McDonald (Mother Superior) was fantastic!
  8. I thought some of the transitions were pretty creative.
  9. I thought the lighting could have been better, as it generally looked like the set was being lit like a soap opera.
  10. There were several times when the camera work could have been better, but it helped me remember that it was a live performance that wouldn’t be perfect.
  11. Sometimes, you just have to work with what you have, whether you like it or not. I mean, seriously, “adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu”???
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