News Column

The hills are alive again -- live on NBC [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

December 1, 2013

YellowBrix

"The Sound of Music Live!" is just that.

It's not a remake of the 1965 movie. Carrie Underwood is not trying to be Julie Andrews, nor is Stephen Moyer trying to be Christopher Plummer.

Rather, NBC's three-hour production on Dec. 5 is intended as an event, the sort for which people once gathered around a television instead of catching up with on their phones.

Underwood, like most folks, grew up watching the movie. "I don't think I could remember the first time I saw it," she says on a break from rehearsals.

"It's been lovely, treating this like a proper show," Moyer says.

It's been 18 years since he did a musical. Though "a massive Christopher Plummer fan," Moyer says, "I will try to make myself different. I don't think he's (Captain von Trapp) very likable in the beginning. I want him to be cold and broken. He's retreated into being an officer and a captain of the fleet. His way of controlling everything is to have it be neat and tidy, and everything is until this little firebrand arrives."

When executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron approached her to play Maria, Underwood recalls thinking, "This would be awesome. Then, did that just really happen? And, what did I get myself into?"

As daunting as performing live is, just making the commitment to doing it was what first dogged Moyer.

"Whatever happens -- if I go reeling down the stairs, or I gash my head open, it doesn't matter," Moyer says. "I said yes, and that's the beauty of it."

This live version is based on the 1959 Broadway musical, which starred Mary Martin. Initially, Martin had asked Rodgers and Hammerstein to write a song. They signed on because they were so taken with the true story of the novice nun who became nanny to the motherless von Trapp children, then wife to the captain.

The two songs most different from the movie version are "My Favorite Things" and "The Lonely Goatherd." That last one, not surprisingly, is Underwood's favorite. "I have been yodeling my whole life," she says.

"The structure is different," says Christian Borle, who plays Max. "People who grew up knowing the movie will be very surprised by the song order, and I found the whole thing to be very moving."

Now, if Zadan and Meron can capture the magic of a live performance for TV, a new generation will have the experience, and Underwood predicts copycats will try other live versions.

Jacqueline Cutler writes for Zap2it.com.

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