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Is NBC's 'Sound of Music Live!' a gamble worth taking?
NBC's live version of "Sound of Music" arrives from the Grumman stages in Bethpage, and a few million "Sound of Musicologists" will be fully expected to weigh in on their various and sundry disputes with the version -- from cast, to Carrie, to music, to costumes, to ... well, head to Twitter for the storm.
So here's my question: Good move or bad? I'll answer that one! A good move. A very good move. A few reasons, and I'll cite them quickly:
1.) This will get a substantial number, I guarantee. People are talking, and when people talk, they want to watch. This already has "water cooler" scrawled across it, and TV needs to that for survival, and -- really -- for vitality.
2.) Carrie Underwood is certainly an interesting choice for Maria and probably a shrewd one -- opinions must be reserved until, well, you know -- she actually tries to act. We know she can sing, and this role should be a breeze for her in that regard, but I don't think Underwood has ever acted in her life, and this part does require a substantial amount of that. But I suspect she can manage, or at least muddle through.
3.) Plenty of excellent support -- including Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald, a pair of glorious talents, and Stephen Moyer, who was an accomplished actor of stage and the musical before he sunk his fangs into people (on "True Blood"). Support like this makes up for a great deal of deficiencies elsewhere.
But the risk is a considerable one, and it's worth making note of here as well. Foremost, most viewers will come to this with the expectation of seeing something that approximates Robert Wise's classic 1965 screen version, and I suspect that when they do, they will go through some sort of miniaturized culture shock. No singing from no mountaintops, here. This version is based on the Mary/Theodore Bickel stage version from the mid-'50s, which -- naturally -- lacked that Great Outdoors expansiveness of the Wise film, and contained numerous, though relatively minor -- changes from the later screen version, too.
But indelibly stamped in viewers' minds will be Julie Andrews, and Wise's intricately constructed musical masterpiece. Word of advice -- get it out of your heads now. This will and absolutely should be different. If this "Sound of Music" quickly establishes its own style and rhythm and personality, then all the better. Any attempts tonight to draws any comparisons with that Oscar-winning elephant in the room are destined for disaster.
Go here for a good overview of what to expect -- by Newsday's Joseph V. Amodio -- and here to learn about some of the major differences between stage and the screen version. (Again, this one will be based on the stage version.)
And check this interesting clip from Screen Slam, which has some nice behind-the-scenes footage.
Newsday app readers please head over to Newsday.com/tvzone to watch Carrie sing some very familiar songs.