Showing posts with label live. Show all posts
Showing posts with label live. Show all posts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Favorite Things Friday || Carrie Underwood Sound of Music Review Part 4

Edit:
Last Friday  I made a horrible mistake and said there were 5 von Trapp boys and 2 girls. Scratch that reverse it. For someone who has been a fan of all things von Trapp for over 20 years, that was a doozy. There are in fact two boys, five girls. Still...boys should not wear floral lederhosen. Ever.

There were a few other mistakes, I'm sure. I will try my best with proof reading this week!

Actors, Singers, and Dancers

NBC's Sound of Music Live, as a whole was very entertaining and full of talent. While Carrie Underwood is very much a singer without as much legitimate theatre experience as many of her co-stars, I feel like she tackled the leading role of Maria very well considering that Julie Andrews' portrayal is SO well known and Carrie certainly had some big shoes to fill. 



I think the performance I enjoyed the most was Laura Benanti as Baroness Schraeder. She delivered her lines believably and is definitely a talented singer. I think that, although her background is in theater, she was able to tone down the bigness of theatre expressions which definitely worked in her favor for a live television production. Coincidently, Ms. Benanti understudied and then starred in the 1998 Broadway revival of The Sound of Music as Maria von Trapp.

Tony award winner Audra McDonald was wonderful as Mother Abbess. Unfortunately she received some negative tweets about her race and the role she was playing. True, the Reverend Mother during Maria's time at Nonnberg Abbey was not black, but this play is someone's representation of those events. None of it was 100% authentic but that didn't really effect Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse's story or Rodger's and Hammerstein's songs. This was The Sound of Music, not South Pacific.



People sounding like they were switching in and out of accents was something that bothered me quite a bit. When an actor is going from speaking in a character accent to sounding like their self, essentially they aren't staying in character. On the subject of accents, Admiral von Schrieber was one of the only characters with a German accent. This seems unnecessary and in fact rather cartoony, giving the villain a thick "foreign" accent compared to the rest of the cast. 

At the very end I was a little confused by the second Bible verse that Reverend Mother quoted. Of course the first was Psalm 121:1 which is quoted in the 1965 film version. The next verse quoted on Sound of Music Live was part of Isaiah 55:12 "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing." I'm not sure if this verse was quoted in the original Broadway production but it the words didn't really seem to fit the mood in the play at that moment.
When looked at in context to Isaiah 55:11-13 it makes a little more sense that a family of refugees doing what they feel to be God's will would be feeling peace. I don't think joy was being felt by the characters in the play or by the real von Trapps as they were leaving Austria. 

As much as I found "wrong" with this play I did enjoy being able to see The Sound of Music performed almost true to the original Broadway performance.
I would give the performance of the cast Sound of Music Live 4 out of 5 stars. This was live. They had one chance for everything. Some of the cast were not as experienced as others and I would venture to guess that the majority of viewers were comparing this to the 1965 film where actors were granted as many takes as necessary for scenes against a beautiful Austrian back drop. As a whole the cast and crew of Sound of Music Live did a great job with this massive musical undertaking. 

So Long Farewell
I was going to quote James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy(1942) about his new play  titled Popularity. Mr. Cohan urges the audience to "Please, miss it." 

Now, I don't think NBC's Sound of Music should be missed, but appreciated for what it is. A live televised theatre production. It was done well, but to be enjoyed should not be compared with an on location film. Lastly, it should be remembered that Theatre and film can never rewrite the true story of the von Trapp Family.

Thank you so much for reading these reviews. I will admit they show more than a little bias toward the 1965 Sound of Music film in spots. In case you missed the others and would like to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, they can be found via the links below.:





Friday, March 14, 2014

Favorite Things Friday || Carrie Underwood Sound of Music Review Part 3

  Just so readers are aware, I have not seen the original, complete, stage version of the Sound of Music. I have read 5 books by Maria von Trapp, Agathe von Trapp's book, and Die Trapp Familie, the German movie that the Broadway show was based on. Also, This review is going to have to be in multiple parts. I am not as concise as a professional critic, and I think I have a lot more knowledge on this subject than the average critic would have, so bear with me here. I want to share some things about Maria's books and "how it really happened" along with some insight into the German movie, what I do know of the original  Broadway show, the 1965 film, and tonight's televised production.

That was my intro to these reviews nearly 4 months ago. I've forgotten some of what I thought or felt about the relatively recent Sound of Music Production on NBC last December which starred Carrie Underwood. However, I did take notes which I lost after part 2 of 4 and finally found exactly 1 week ago. 

This new Favorite Things Friday series will first consist of the last three Sound of Music Reviews and after that will feature a few of my favorite things. There could be blogs, Etsy Shops, or things about classic movies, music, etc. You'll just have to wait and see! 

Let's get started on this review.
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Costumes and Inevitable Comparisons

Something that really stood out to my musical loving mind while watching NBC's Sound of Music Live was the fact that Uncle Max looked incredibly like Rooster from Annie. That was all I could think of every. single. time. he. was. on. screen. I think if he had shaved the pencil mustache it would have improved his character portrayal 200%. The facial hair worked for Richard Haydn in the 1965 film but he also spoke with a British accent. Basically, American+pencil mustache = Rooster Hannigan. I shouldn't fret about it after all the sun will come out tomorrow.

(I will not speak about the head pieces of the singers behind Uncle Max)


The children's play clothes made me roll my eyes. Floral sprays for girls AND the boys. Let's not forget there were only two von Trapp girls and FIVE boys! Kurt looks very much like he's about to cry or throw up. While the gold/tan damask in the movie is not exactly masculine, it is a neutral color and it is not flowers!


 Gold costumes were used in the NBC television production in the scene where Maria teaches Kurt the Laendler. In fact both Maria, Kurt, and the set were the same exact gold, peach, and orange hues in that scene. It was hard to tell where the people ended and the walls began. Perhaps it was to hide the fact Carrie isn't so light on her feet? She did catch her heel on her shirt and fall during one of her concerts...

Another huge thing is the era. The costumes in NBC'S Sound of Music Live were very much mid to late 1940s style. Even the hair styles were from the 1940s, especially Liesl's. The actual real life von Trapps lived out these events beginning in the mid 1920s. Georg and Maria were married on November 26, 1927 and they left Austria in 1938. That said, the condensed era also makes the movie costumes slightly off style as well. I heard years ago, I think in a Christopher Plummer interview he mentioned that Dorothy Jeakins, the costume designer in the 1965 film said of the costumes she made, "If they weren't supposed to zip, they didn't zip." Watch the film again sometime and you'll notice there are no zippers on any of the dresses!

Jeakins' design of the wedding dress in the film was actually fairly similar to Maria von Trapp's own wedding dress. You can see some pictures of the two dresses over on the  Edelwiess Patterns Blog
Carrie Underwood's wedding dress in this television production followed suit, pun intended, with the other costumes and just looked way too modern.

I know someone must've worked hard on the costumes for NBC's Sound of Music Live but it just didn't appear a whole lot of thought was put into it pertaining to the era. It looked as if the few costumes that didn't copy style or color of film costumes were sewn together from some vintage 1940s patterns. Beautiful costumes, but they didn't quite fit even for "The last golden days of the thirties." Assuming the setting of play and film both take place at the same time. Costumes get just 1 out of 5 stars.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Carrie Underwood Sound Of Music Review Part 2

Songs and Scenes

As I mentioned in part 1, the reason why I wanted to watch "NBC's Sound of Music Live!" was because, according to Julie Andrews in an interview, this performance was supposed to be the original theatre version of the Sound of Music. There are many differences between the theatre and film versions, not just the songs being "out of order" as my brother described it. 

Because I had to work last night, I missed Reverend Mother singing "My Favorite Things" with Maria, "Do, Re, Mi" occurring much earlier in the show than it does in the film, and "Lonely Goatherd" in Maria's room during the thunderstorm. I was glad that I did make it home on time to see both of the songs that Frau Schraeder sings. (Yep, Frau, not Baroness, but we'll touch on that in the next post.)

"How Can Love Survive?" is one of the songs featuring Frau Schraeder that was cut from the film version. It's very theatrical and basically plays off of stories that poor, struggling people are the ones with great romances  and rich people who have "everything" do not have the time or the means they need to fight for love.

Schraeder's other song in the theatre production is "No Way to Stop It." Where she and Captain von Trapp realize their political differences in a less than subtle way and know that a marriage between them is not meant to be. Very different from the 1965 film scene where she graciously steps aside because she sees that the Captain has fallen in love with Maria. The character equivalent of Schraeder in the German movie Die Trapp Familie (1956) doesn't have any songs, just like in the 1965 Sound of Music film.

Something I noticed that was similar to the movie was when the captain, Max, and Maria are discussing whether or not Maria should have dinner with the party guests the underscoring is "How Can love Survive." In the movie, they use it just a tiny bit later, when Max is talking to Elsa right after Maria has left to go back to the abbey because Elsa said the Captain was in love with her. Which brings me to the next point.

In the movie, Baroness Schraeder tells Maria that the Captain is in love with her and in the play, it is Brigitta who shares this information to Maria. What really happened, according to Maria von Trapp herself in her book The Story of The Trapp Family Singers, is sort of a mix of both stage and screen scenes. Princess Yvonne (Elsa Schraeder ;)) notices the captain admiring Maria. She tells Maria the Captain is in love with her, which surprises Maria and makes her want to leave, but the princess convinces her to stay until the wedding so she can look after the children until they go away to school. Sound familiar? Following a few more events and finally a broken engagement with the Princess, the children ask their father if he will marry Maria so she can stay with them. The captain tells his children he would love to marry her but he didn't think she liked him much. The children then go to Maria and tell her that their father doesn't think she likes him much, to which she replies, "Of course I like him." The children then went back to their father to say Maria would marry him. Of course, when Georg walked Into the room where Maria was cleaning a chandelier, spoke to her about marriage she was surprised yet again. This time Maria did leave. She returned to the abbey, this part is accurately portrayed in the 1956 German film, and asked Reverend Mother if it was the will of God that she marry Captain von Trapp. Of course, we all know what Reverend Mother's answer was.

Okay, now on with the show

Lonely Goatherd or Marco Polo. What was with that? The duet with Uncle Max blindfolded playing with the children in the yard. It was just so strange to use the song in that game, I think the film version with Baroness Schraeder passing the basketball with the children is a much more "normal" scenario.

Soon after that scene Maria returns, looking for her life, and Frau Schraeder leaves. In NBC's Sound of Music Live, the Captain and Maria finally reveal their feelings for each other by singing "Something Good." I was very disappointed by this. Had they really used the entire theatre score they would have sung "An Ordinary Couple." The song "Something Good" was written solely by Richard Rodgers, he composed both music and lyrics in the early 1960s when asked to write a new song for the film for Captain and Maria's duet. Oscar Hammerstein had died in 1960. 

I did enjoy the scene where Liesl introduces Maria to Rolf. This occurred when Rolf, delivers a telegram to the house after Georg and Maria are married. In the 1965 film, there was actually a scene that occurred somewhere around the "Do Re Mi" montage when Maria an the children are in town and Liesl introduces Maria and Rolf. It was thought to slow down the film and was ultimately deleted. 



The last scene in the movie that I both enjoyed and slightly cringed at was the concert scene. I thought it was played very well. I enjoyed the transition from the von Trapp villa to the concert hall was really cool, as I've said before, but the concert itself did not really go as well as the transition into it. First, the brass drowned out all nine actors singing the "Do Re Mi Reprise," Then it seemed like Stephen Moyer could have used a lot more practice on the guitar for "Edelweiss," and finally, at the end of "So Long Farewell," his voice nearly drowned out Carrie Underwood altogether. Obviously whoever ran sound was not hearing what the television audience heard. I know I wasn't the only one to notice this because when I went to work on Saturday my boss mentioned the sound during the concert scene and asked if I thought it was off balance too.

Because I have never seen the actual play and am so familiar with the film version, some of the scenes in Sound of Music Live seemed awkward, or disjointed compared to the relative smoothness of the film. I would give Songs and Scenes a 2.5 out of 5. Some things went really well, but when they didn't go well, they just really didn't at all. Plus the added disappointment in the fact that a film song was used to replace a theatre song. I read in "The Sound of Music: a Critical Review of the Changes Made from the Original Stage Play" by James M. Becher that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Estate is limiting aqusition to the songs which I assume was the reason for the change in this performance.


*Photo: Hirsch, Julia Antopol, "The Sound of Music: The Making of America's Favorite Movie", Contemporary Books, 1993
*Copy and Paste link to go to The review by James M. Becher: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-sound-music-critical-review-changes-1273471.html?cat=40