Yes, I can be a very tough critic. In fact, I usually am. Yes, I shared my share of snide tweets and comments during the airing of “The Sound of Music – Live” on NBC tonight. I was even a bit cruel to the poor girl who played Gretl when she was grotesquely off-key at the end of “So Long, Farewell” (and for that, I apologize, Peyton Ella.)
Yes, Carrie Underwood’s acting was stiff. Yes, there was this constant white noise hiss in the audio. Yes, it was an insane set design choice to combine obviously theatrical sets pieces with a photomural mountain background. Yes, I’ve seen better thunder/lightning effects in school plays. Staging the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” song on the mountain set was also a head-scratcher. There was some clever use of the studio space, but the set design, was, overall, merely adequate. The audio, at times, seemed amateurish – bad mixes, late cues, and more. I’m still not sure if the music was canned or live. I’m guessing it was canned, but it’s hard to know and the NBC website doesn’t say.
Nevertheless, there was Audra McDonald. She alone was enough to make the production worth watching. There were Christian Borle and Laura Benanti. Even Stephen Moyer played a decent Captain Von Trapp. Say what you will about Carrie Underwood, she does have quite the voice. There was Joe West’s Kurt. Keep an eye on that one. Amazing. The rest of the kids were pretty decent as well.
Imagine, too, acting, singing, and dancing in a live production with no audience to applaud, to react, etc. That, I believe was a major drawback. I do wonder how the performances might have sparked a bit more if there was an audience to which the actors could react (and vice versa.) My sympathy to the actors for having to do this without any audience.
Live stage productions are difficult to do on television. Go back, I mean really go back and look closely at the television productions of Peter Pan, Cinderella, Once Upon A Mattress. They may be the magic moments from our childhood, but if you really look closely, they had their share of problems. It is never easy to adapt a stage production for television. Film adaptations don’t always work, either, but Sound of Music was clearly a film adaptation that worked quite well. It is simply not fair to compare the film version with an adapted for television stage production.
On the other hand, I wonder what might have happened if this had been less of a live stage to tv adaptation and more of one that utilized the newly available technologies used in modern television production? While I applaud NBC’s willingness to take a chance on a live production, that might not have been the best option.
Following the many tweets and comments, it was apparent to me that there were as many supporters as there were detractors. I resolved, from the start, to not automatically be a basher of the production from the get go, and to try and give it a fair viewing. I did, and while it was far from one of the best things I’ve seen, it was far from the worst. Maybe I’m damning it with faint praise. I hope NBC (an other networks) won’t shy away from trying again, with other live adaptations. I am sure there is much to be learned from this production of the Sound of Music. Let’s hope we all learn from it.
©2013 by Adrian A. Durlester