Saturday, December 7, 2013

And I'll sing, once more

You know I've got opinions about "The Sound of Music -- Live!" A bit of a disclaimer: I don't really like "The Sound of Music." In fact, I don't like much of anything Rodgers and Hammerstein put out there. But I will try to put aside all of that and focus on the event itself.

I love a musical. I love the event of a musical. For this reason, I hope that NBC (and other networks) put aside the snarking and the complaining about this one, and they try it again in the future. I do believe that most of the negativity comes from a place where people really wanted something like this to work, and they were disappointed at what didn't work. (That said, with the ratings they got, I can't imagine they won't try this again.)

My main issue with the whole thing is that they picked "The Sound of Music" in the first place, not because I personally don't like it but because it's too iconic. Even though I'm not a fan, I still know all the lines and can sing along, because it's such a part of the culture. And, like everyone, I agree that no one could be Julie Andrews. Here are some other reasons why it didn't work:
1) Unlike other musicals, there's not really any character who can make up for weaknesses in Maria. (I'm not going to go into why Carrie Underwood didn't work as Maria. You can find loads of comments about that easily enough.) "The Sound of Music" is Maria's story, and f you don't have a solid Maria, you are screwed. I mean, who are you going to go to for relief: Rolf? The Baroness? Maybe Mother Superior, but most people are not relating to a nun on a hill. The Captain might be able to save some of it, but you'd have to have one super-charming, amazing Captain (which Stephen Moyer certainly was not) to make up for a not-so-charming Maria. 

Most other musicals have minor characters that can really add a lot or they're more of a full-cast kind of thing. In fact, I can't think of a musical that falls so heavily on one person's shoulders. You need to divide up the heavy lifting. 

2) It's a loooooong show. I know most musicals are, but this one takes a lot. And you can't really cut too much. I wonder if it would have helped to make it a two-night event. 

3) The Broadway version (which they used) is different in ways that don't help the story, at least the love story. I know that the tow of them had no chemistry, but there's almost no opportunity to develop any. You don't see the Captain and Maria interact except when she meets him and the children (where she tells him she doesn't answer to whistles) and when he brings the Baroness home (when Maria tells him his kids are wearing the curtains and they are afraid of him). All of a sudden, they dance and Maria realizes she's in love. That seems abrupt. The movie added some scenes which had the Captain see Maria in a different light, which made you believe they could fall in love. 

4) If you're gonna do it live, having an audience to play off of is needed. If you ham it to no one, it just seems awkward. 
I have a few that I think could work so much better: "Annie," "Anything Goes" (Tap! Dancing!), "Guys and Dolls," "Chicago," "Music Man" (I can even see Carrie Underwood pulling off Marian the Librarian), "Gypsy," "West Side Story." These are not my favorite musicals. These are musicals I think would work nicely in this live tv setting. These are musicals familiar enough to get ratings, with roles juicy enough to get stars. Yes, some of them have plots that might be a bit sketchy, but what musical doesn't? Isn't that why we love them?

I do hope that doing a musical becomes an event. I just hope that the event is other musicals with other casts, not a rerun of a taping of this one.

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