Review Roundup - NBC's SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE! All the Reviews!
NBC's THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE! marked the first time in over 50 years that a network aired a live version of a Broadway musical. The presentation, which aired Thursday, Dec. 5 (8 PM ET), starred Grammy winner Carrie Underwood as 'Maria,' Audra McDonald ("Private Practice"), who has won five Tony Awards and two Grammys, as Mother Abbess; Stephen Moyer ("True Blood"), as Capt. Georg von Trapp; Tony Award winner Christian Borle ("Smash"), who portrayed von Trapp family friend Max Detweiler; and Tony winner Laura Benanti ("Go On"), who took on the role of Elsa Schrader, the captain's one-time fiancee.
The NBC television event, included studio recordings for all of the musical numbers that were performed by the cast members in the live broadcast, including Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites "The Sound of Music," "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," among others.
Executive producers for the telecast were Neil Meron and Craig Zadan ("Smash," "The Academy Awards"). Directors are Rob Ashford ("Evita") and Beth McCarthy-Miller ("30 Rock"). David Chase ("Cinderella") served as musical director.
Let see what the critics had to say about this innovative television broadcast:
Pat Cerasaro, BroadwayWorld: THE SOUND OF MUSIC live on NBC far exceeded expectations and made a vintage musical feel real, relatable, viable and alive again for a 2013 audience - virtually everything worked. Sure, a few boom mics and camera shadows were visible, a few lines were flubbed, the faux marble ledge jiggled when Elsa set her champagne glass on it and Maria may have stumbled during the title song... Nevertheless, whatever the recipe, if this sort of thing is repeat-able in any way, please, TV and theatre gods, let it happen again - preferably next year at this time, if not sooner.
Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times: Carrie Underwood played the singing governess in the live NBCperformance of "The Sound of Music" on Thursday and seemed to be sleepwalking. Laura Benanti, who played Elsa Schrader, the wealthy Viennese socialite who sets her cap for Captain von Trapp (Stephen Moyer), had all the sparkle and mischief that Ms. Underwood, as Maria, lacked. Their imbalance turned an ambitious television rendering of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical into a Noël Coward triangle in which audiences root for the witty, wicked older woman: "The Sound of Money."
Tom Gliatto, People: Neither performer was helped by the fact that the production stuck to the original Broadway show, which premiered more than half a century ago. It was full of business that might be delightful or even exciting on a stage - nuns gliding about while singing their alleluias, characters racing up and down grand, sweeping staircases - but on a wide-screen television it tended to look like just that, lots and lots of stage business. The Von Trapp children kept rushing into group-hug formation as if they were a tiny football team in lederhosen.
Marc Bernardin, The Hollywood Reporter: The supporting cast was strong: Laura Benanti was appropriately sultry as Elsa Von Hottie, while Christian Borle was appropriately hammy as Max Detweiler and someone should find a way to have McDonald sing audiences into every commercial break... And yet, without Underwood and Moyer selling us on this legendary love story, The Sound of Music Live plays like very expensive karaoke.
Brian Lowry, Variety: Give NBC credit for tackling the challenge, in trump-the-DVR-age fashion, with "The Sound of Music Live!," even if the actual production too often felt as lifeless as those alpine backdrops. Part of that has to do with mounting a stage production on TV - even with the benefit of swooping camera angles - and part the casting, with Carrie Underwood handling the vocal chores more ably than the acting.
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: Underwood was done no favors by being surrounded by some Broadway veterans - Christian Borle, Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald, especially - who thrive under the lights and pressure. This is what these Tony Award winners do for a living and it showed....Full credit goes to Underwood for trying, though. She was not just dancing and singing live in front of millions in a medium she is a novice at, but she also was stepping into the role made famous by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film.
Robert Bianco, USA Today: And yes, give credit even to Carrie Underwood, this Music's Maria, for being willing to risk comparisons to Mary Martin and Julie Andrews and tackle a Broadway classic -- live, without a retake net -- even though she has no real acting experience. Odds are good that without her, and the fan base NBC no doubt hoped she would bring along, there would have been no Music at all. The trouble is that with her, it wasn't very good.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Post: Cannily the producers surrounded our rookies with fairly charming kids - props to Joe West's Kurt and his lovely high register - and a formidable array of Broadway pros. Leading the pack was the multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess. Her rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was so sensational that even Underwood teared up. The magic of live television!...So yes, there were peaks and valleys - not for nothing is this set in the Alps. But overall we can only hope NBC won't wait another 50 years to do it again.
Andy Swift, Holllywood Life: While no one could ever replace the legendary Julie Andrews, we have to admit, we totally fell in love with Carrie Underwood as Maria in NBC's live Sound of Musicproduction on Dec. 5. She may not have sported Miz Andrew's iconic blonde bob, but Carrie still brought a sense of innocence and wonder to the role that kept us fully invested through the musical's three-hour runtime.
David Hinckly, New York Daily News: The network's ultra-ambitious live production of "The Sound of Music" may not displace the 1965 movie as the definitive version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. It also reminded viewers that audio on live events, particularly live music events, has never been TV's strongest suit. But thanks to a strong cast of front-line talent around star Carrie Underwood, the three-hour show captured the "Sound of Music" feeling, that is, warm woolen mittens.
Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast: The poor hills. They finally come alive, only to experience a rotating flurry of emotions so dizzying it's as if the indefatigable Carrie Underwood started spinning on them at the beginning of NBC's The Sound of Music Live! and didn't stop for the entire three-hour broadcast. And, honestly, the country singer tackled her turn as Maria with such grating gusto she'd probably had done just that if she was asked to.
Photo: Will Hart/NBC