Fine, I’ll admit it: I contributed to the 4.6 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for Thursday night’s The Sound of Music Live! Those three hours I spent with the von Trapp family and Wal-Mart commercials started off as innocuous ironic-watching/hate-watching; I have never seen the Julie Andrews film and I avoid musicals in general because I struggle to suspend my disbelief over their norm of people abruptly breaking into song during a conversation. Although I was ready to switch over to ESPN after the opening sequence of singing nuns and Carrie Underwood running through handcrafted woods confused the heck of me, browsing a few Wikipedia articles on The Sound of Music and the von Trapp family persuaded me to remain with NBC.
(I mean, the Baron was a naval officer in World War I and had this ‘stache! NBC should have stuck that ‘stache on Stephen Moyer! Plus, how did I not know that descendants of the von Trapps continue to operate the family ski lodge in Vermont? I HAD NO IDEA THEY MADE THEIR WAY TO AMERICA!)
By the time Maria taught those von Trapp kids how to sing and somehow won over them in five minutes, I already spoiled the entire fictionalized story and real-life story for myself. Again, I was at a crossroads where I could change the channel, but by that point Carrie Underwood’s wistful eyes and voice had me infatuated with her—Yeah, I couldn’t care less about the acting criticisms because her singing compensated; it’s a musical for crying out loud—and I already spoiled for myself that the Mother Abbess would return for “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” which meant more of the powerful voice of Audra McDonald.
I rarely get the chills of awe when I hear someone sing. Michael Samuels was the first to have that effect on me when he sang “Heal Their Hearts/Freedom” at the Riverdance performance I saw in my sophomore year at UF. Jim Cornelison’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner before Blackhawks home games made him the second person to accomplish this feat. Now Audra McDonald’s performance in The Sound of Music Live! earned her the right to be the third person to join this exclusive list. McDonald, the big Broadway star I had never heard of until last night, just owned “My Favorite Things” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and made her the star of the entire ensemble; her Mother Abbess is the coolest nun I’ll never have the chance meet.
The content in the second act of the show also gave me those chills of unease and dread. Hearing “Anschluss” and seeing that salute so many times reminded me of the reality that nine had to leave their homeland under a cloud of worry (but in less dramatic circumstances than presented in the musical) because of Hitler’s emergence. Although the ending of this chase was as predictable as Maria and the Baron falling for each other, the suspense of evading the Reich was more fleshed out than that courtship and saved me from thinking that this was a mediocre dramatization of the von Trapp story.
You know, not watching the Julie Andrews version before seeing NBC’s live presentation worked out pretty well for me. I got to watch this without any of the baggage of expecting it to replicate the film, and even though it took up a large chunk of my Thursday night, I was at least pleased with the final product. And fine, I’ll also admit this second against the grain opinion: NBC did a better job for Carrie Underwood with this Sound of Music thing than with the over-the-top Sunday Night Football intros inflicted on us every week.