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Laura Benanti Applauds Carrie Underwood's SOUND OF MUSIC Casting

Laura Benanti Applauds Carrie Underwood's SOUND OF MUSIC Casting
Laura Benanti, Christian Borle

In an interview featured in yesterday's New Jersey Star-Ledger, Tony winning actress Laura Benanti shared her excitement in portraying Elsa Schrader in NBC's upcoming live broadcast of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

The 'Gypsy' star is no stranger to the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy, and later the replacement for Maria in the 1998 revival of the musical. Yet this time around, the actress has the chance to experience the timeless love story through the eyes of a different character.

"Revisiting the show through the lens of a different human being has been interesting and fun," she says of her socialite character, Elsa. "She loves him [Captain Von Trapp] and she wants it to work. She's nobody's fool. It's been good for me to delve into playing a confident character in that way."

Benanti also addresses some harsh criticism that the upcoming broadcast has received, specifically the reaction to the casting of country music star Carrie Underwood in the role made famous by Julie Andrews. "People love to talk smack before they've seen something," Benanti comments. "It seems like such an uneducated, ungenerous way to behave. I'm not concerned about people who are that small."

She also has some strong words of support for Underwood, who rose to fame as the Season 4 winner of American Idol. "She's a wonderful actress with a beautiful voice ," Benanti gushes of her co-star. "She's worked really hard to bring her own style to make sure it's less country and more Rodgers and Hammerstein."

While the 'Go On' star admits that the live broadcast will present some new challenges for her, she is thrilled to be part of the innovative project which she believes will bring the excitement of Broadway to viewers all over the country. "There is going to be a live connection," she explains. "Maybe the audience won't be in the same space but they're experiencing it at the same time. You get the excitement of live theater but you get to be in your bathrobe in your house."

About Laura Benanti:

Benanti received a Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award and a Tony Nomination for her starring role in the Broadway production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown for Lincoln Center, where she also starred inSarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. Ms. Benanti also demonstrated her comic flair in The Public Theater's production of Christopher Durang's Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them.

Ms. Benanti earned the 2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her revelatory portrayal of Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy opposite Patti LuPone and directed by Arthur Laurents. Her other Broadway roles include her Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominated performance of Cinderella in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods and her sultry Tony nominated turn in Swing! She also starred opposite Antonio Banderas as his muse in the celebrated revival of Nine. Benanti began her multifaceted career as Maria in The Sound of Music opposite Richard Chamberlain.

NBC's live presentation of "The Sound of Music Live!" airs Thursday, Dec. 5 (8 PM ET). Starring country music star Carrie Underwood as 'Maria,' the cast features Audra McDonald ("Private Practice"), who has won five Tony Awards and two Grammys, as Mother Abbess; Stephen Moyer ("True Blood"), who will play Capt. Georg von Trapp; Tony Award winner Christian Borle ("Smash"), who will portray von Trapp family friend Max Detweiler; and Tony winner Laura Benanti ("Go On"), who will portray Elsa Schrader, the captain's one-time fiancee.
"The Sound of Music," music from the NBC Television event, will include studio recordings for all of the musical numbers that are 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 are Neil Meron and Craig Zadan ("Smash," "The Academy Awards"). Directors are Rob Ashford ("Evita") and Beth McCarthy-Miller ("30 Rock"). David Chase ("Cinderella") serves as musical director.The soundtrack is licensed through the NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group.

"The Sound of Music," set in the 1930s before and during "Anschluss" when the Nazi's annexed Austria, is based on the romantic true story of Maria von Trapp, an aspiring nun who leaves the abbey to become a governess for the widower Capt. von Trapp's seven children. She soon finds herself falling in love with her employer and questioning her religious calling. It premiered on Broadway in 1959 where it broke box-office records and won the Tony Award forBest Musical. The 1965 film adaptation won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

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