News Column

OPINION: Underwood is no Andrews

December 9, 2013


Dec. 09--Unbeknownst to many, I was once an actor. I retired at the ripe age of 11 or 12 after only four musicals. My list of theater credits were as follows:

I was Orphan Number 17 in the musical "Oliver Twist." My speaking part was limited to scoffing and saying "Oh Charlie!" a few times. This would be the largest part in my acting career.

I was Altar Boy Number 2 in "The Sound of Music." Altar boy number one got sick for the Sunday performance. We found someone in the audience to take his spot at intermission. Stand and hold the holy cross, my director instructed of me.

I was Elephant Number 4 in "The Jungle Book." My role was limited to looking sternly at Elephant Number 5, who was the funny one.

Last, but not least, I was Wicked Witch of the West guard number 2. The guy who says "She's Dead! You killed her!" wasn't me. That was my friend. I was told to look like a robot, and, of course, sing "Oh Ee Oh, Ee Oh Um" as low and loud as I could.

Needless to say, considering the lack of stage time and lines to learn, the directors and producers of these musicals put myself and the other non-divas to work painting sets, moving sets, videotaping the performances, and a whole host of other grunt work.

So when I watched the live televised performance Thursday of "A Sound of Music," I could relate -- even in the most trivial way -- to the effort it took to put on such an ordeal.

That said, I think my family would agree that, had we had the choice, we would have rather popped in a DVD of the original Julie Andrews "The Sound of Music" than watching country star Carrie Underwood attempt to do the role.

I'm not quite sure what it was, but I was mostly bored. Clearly, my 9-year-old daughter, whom has been a fan of The Sound of Music since we started singing songs from it to her when she was a baby, was disappointed. "It isn't anything like the movie!" she said.

To be sure, the music was still good. The songs are timeless, and the surrounding cast was made up of professionals from Broadway, and knew how to belt out a tune.

Underwood, of course, can sing. But I couldn't get used to the country twang-Kermit-the-frog sound her voice had.

But I don't know how to tippy-toe around this -- Underwood is a bad actress. Apparently, the American Idol machine doesn't have the same kind of acting school of the Disney Channel farm system, based on the endless chain of actresses on their television shows who also put out hit singles (Brittany Spears, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez). Cyrus might be doing inappropriate videos these days, but based on my multiple viewings of the Hannah Montana show (9-year-old daughter) I'm fairly certain she can act and sing.

The live TV performance also had a lot of dead air. I don't think your average viewer realizes how much time and effort is involved in editing a TV show or movie. We at the newspaper discovered this when we attempted to do video on our web site. Shooting the video: relatively easy. Editing the video into something that is entertaining: really, really hard.

Thus, when you shoot something live, without a live audience to react to it, there's just too much opportunity for open space.

If Underwood's version of "The Sound of Music" did anything, it was to make me gain an appreciation of just how good Julie Andrews was as Maria. She was a charming, underrated actress (still is, based on recent movies), and a blow-you-out-of-the-water vocalist.

We DVRed the live version of the show. I think we'll delete that one, and get the movie version for Christmas.

Now, where did I put that elephant trunk?

Joel Myhre is The Journal's Publisher. Email him at


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