Sealing a Kiss with Princess Stephanie for a Gold Clown?

Sealing a Kiss with Princess Stephanie for a Gold Clown?
at the 41st Monte Carlo International Circus Festival in January

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Sound of Music Live on TV: Music Soars; Stilted Acting Does Not. Rodgers and Hammerstein Struggle Once Again in Labored TV Adaptation.

The Sound of a Saving Power: Audra McDonald

Quick take here, starting at the very beginning, ending up midway through.

How I wanted to like it.  Wanted to be swept away, for I am a Rodgers & Hammerstein fan to the living end, knowing that, with each passing year, their brand of music threatre, so rooted in older values gradually vanishing as society reinvents itself into a thousand -you-pick-the-one-that-suits-you-at-the-moment-relationship, is becoming more and more passe.

The Sound of Music was performed live on national TV.  Not since decades have they done this. I remember actually watching Cinderella being performed live.  A thrill.

First frames of this SofM, mostly following the stage show rather than the gooy film, were thus riveting, just to know they were winging it before live cameras.

The Mother Abyss, essayed with consummate power by Audra McDonald, took stage from the first frame, then came preciously sweet Maria, played by a singer I've never hardly heard of, Carrie Underwood, who can sing, but, sorry to say, can't act very well.  She came across as more the modern Disney woman, both feminine BUT very strong and take-chargy.    Into the Trapp mansion, the female housekeeper was a hoot, so real -- an older actress (still searching for her name) who grabbed my attention and kept me amused with her every move.  Best actor in the show, I'd say!   Stephen Moyer, playing Von Trapp had an edge, I liked. Together, he and Maria seemed miles apart. She, from Pixar; he, from Bergman.  But, I did not stay tuned all the way through.

Nice try, if only she could act: Underwood with Moyer

My bedtime is around 10 at the latest.  I wanted to have reason to defy my pillows and sheets, stay up like a kid, late.   Around 9:30, this SofM was wearing thin on me.  I'd gotten to hear one of my very favorites, "How Can Love Survive," well done and cheers!  This great gem had not survived into the sanitized movie, so for some of you, its haunting notes and worldly words, were, I hope, freshly exciting.  I found some of the choreography to be by the numbers, delivered drill team style.  In fact, overall direction seemed maybe too overplayed, making everybody look under the Captain's whistle.

Overall, TV's take, musically speaking, captured the greatness of possibly Broadway's greatest song writing them ever.  It had a lot going for it, but I asked myself -- bottom line acting test -- did in the Maria actor I see a character or an actor at work?

I saw a not very good actor trying her best to fit in.

When it's up on Netflix, surely I will get it.

For Maria, they really need, believe it or not, as much a character as a looker. Mary Martin was not just sweet; beyond that sunny face were intriguing idiosyncrasies that made her so damn interesting to watch.. 

Would love to have heard Audra McDonald sing climb every mountain. She probably brought down the set.

Still, hats off  to the directors, cast and crew for taking on so audacious an undertaking and bringing it off with class and polish.  

Maybe they can do it again, live.  All they need is a different Maria.

Not a  problem?

************************************************************************

TV Ratings and reception:

The show, described a strong ratings winner, was seen by 18.5 million viewers.  Ratings share, 5.0 at its peak around midway through, sank a little in the second half down to 4.2.  Not a surprise to me.  My brother and his wife, both avid musical theatre fans, gave up on the show around 8:30, half way through, same as did I. But then again, none of us are Carrie Underwood fans.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's made for TV original, Cinderella, telecast live in 1957, was seen by -- ready for this? -- 107 million viewers, about twice as many people as tuned into Ed Sullivan around that time to watch Elvis Presley's hips go wild and free on national TV..

Reviews: I've only casually scanned a few. Some were good. Some, like USA Today, were quite bad.  Indeed, according to the Los Angeles Times, the reviews were "largely unfavorable."   That's not a surprise, either. 

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