TV Review: ‘The Sound of Music Live!’

Maia Zewert

When I first heard NBC was producing a live show of “The Sound of Music,” I will admit I was a bit skeptical. The 1965 film is a classic close to people’s hearts, and I did not believe Carrie Underwood was up to the task of taking on a role many associate with the flawless Julie Andrews. While I was right on that point, I did enjoy the production more than I thought I would.

“The Sound of Music” takes place before World War II in Austria and follows the life of a young nun in training named Maria when she is assigned as a governess to the children of Capt. Georg von Trapp.

As Maria, Underwood definitely brought it in the vocal department (her rendition of “The Lonely Goatherd” would have left a less experienced performer completely breathless by the end of the song); however, she was far outmatched in the acting department.

Stephen Moyer, known for his role on “True Blood” was pleasantly surprising as Capt. von Trapp. Yes, his vocals paled in comparison to Underwood, as well as Broadway veterans Laura Benanti, Christian Borle and Audra McDonald, but he did a fine job in the acting department.

In addition to the child actors portraying the seven von Trapp children, Benanti and McDonald were the absolute highlights of the show. Benanti managed to humanize Capt. von Trapp’s almost-wife Elsa so well that I found myself rooting for her to end up with him in the end. With “Go On” canceled, I can only hope she returns to her Broadway roots where she truly belongs.

McDonald absolutely brought the house down as Mother Abbess. Her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was the high point of the three-hour show.

The production itself was somewhat lacking. There was no live audience, so the pauses after each musical number felt awkward. Underwood didn’t attempt an accent (probably a safe choice); however, those who did occasionally forgot to use it. An extra stepped on Benanti’s dress, but she handled it like a champ.

The special pulled in more than 18 million viewers, making it the most-watched Thursday night for NBC since the “Frasier” finale in 2004. I would not be surprised if NBC decided to make something like this a musical event, however I would suggest next time only casting Broadway veterans and using a live studio audience.