BWW CD Reviews: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (Music from the NBC Television Event) is Charming
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that Carrie Underwood recently starred in NBC's production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's beloved musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Whether you loved it or hated it, NBC's live broadcast has been widely discussed for its casting, presenting a production that was more faithful to the original 1959 vehicle created for Mary Martin than the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews, and for the sheer fact that it has been a rather long time since a Broadway musical was turned into a television special and beamed into living rooms across the United States. Additionally, two days prior to the initial airing, Sony Masterworks released a charming studio album that features music from the production.
With Music by Richard Rodgers and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, these elements of THE SOUND OF MUSIC are time tested material that is cherished and beloved by many the world over. Since 1959, this score has delighted and enchanted audiences with its catchy tunes and widely applicable lyrics. On this recording, the work of Rodgers & Hammerstein is preserved well and does exactly what audiences expect it to.
So, how do you solve a problem like Maria? Well, in my opinion, Carrie Underwood does a fine job with the role. She is no Julie Andrews or Mary Martin, but honestly who wants her to be? On the disc, her voice hits the notes and sounds lovely on the iconic numbers from the show. With her pop and country roots, the songstress' belt is anything but a Broadway belt. It sounds as if she pushes from her throat instead of her diaphragm, especially when signing opposite Audra McDonald's Mother Abbess on "My Favorite Things." Despite this, her sweet, idyllic soprano fits the role of Maria, creating a character that sounds youthful and vibrant.
A truly pleasant surprise on the album is Stephen Moyer's delightful baritone instrument. From his first appearance as Captain Georg von Trapp on "Reprise: The Sound of Music" to his perfectly crooned "Edelweiss," he sings with a swoon worthy, dapper charisma. I never knew that Stephen Moyer was gifted with such a voice, and I sincerely hope that we'll be gifted with more opportunities to hear him showcase it.
The young romantic leads, Liesl and Rolf Gruber, are well sung by Ariane Rinehart and Michael Campayno. Each brings a youthful sincerity to their vocalizations, delivering "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" to a whole new generation of youngsters that will clamor to sing the song at choir pop shows for years to come. Moreover, as we listen to Ariane Rinehart's Liesl across tracks like "So Long, Farewell" and "Reprise: Sixteen Going On Seventeen" we can't help but love her.
Broadway musical veterans Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess, Christiane Noll as Sister Margaretta, Laura Benati as Elsa Schraeder, and Christian Borle as Max Detweiler all make their presences known and appreciated on the album. Each one stands out on their various tracks, bringing beaming smiles to the faces of listeners both unfamiliar and familiar with their work.
At the bottom line, the album's biggest detractor is the fact that Carrie Underwood's vocal styling is simply not in the Broadway vein. I can see how this may be jarring to purists, but I don't find anything about her performance unpalatable. I feel that NBC and this cast put their best feet forward and have created a THE SOUND OF MUSIC cast recording that can be cherished by fans of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic while attracting new fans to the musical theatre medium.