I set up my blog for my own personal experiences in and around New York, but I wanted to use it today to address this past week’s newest rendition of “The Sound of Music”. I’ve been seeing and hearing such awful posts about the live movie production, and I was skeptical at best, but also curious. So I sat down and watched it, fully going in with low expectations, but also with an open mind (something I’m not so sure many people did). I’m not ashamed to say that I loved it. Here’s the thing, if you’re still reading after that, if you compare it to the blockbuster 1965 movie with Julie Andrews, then yeah, you’ll be hugely disappointed. There is no comparison to that! In my opinion, that was the greatest movie musical of all time, and one of my favorite movies. Julie Andrews was my hero when I was a little girl, because of that movie. First thing to remember about that movie, it took them over a year to film. Here’s another thing, it wasn’t live. Those actors had numerous takes to get the perfect shot. Julie Andrews kept face planting in the mud on the side of the mountain every time the helicopter got that opening shot. Their voices were looped in so that they could run and sing and dance, but also sound phenomenal, and a fact many of you didn’t know, the Captain had a voice double. That’s right, leave it to Hollywood to not let us hear Christopher Plummer actually sing “Edelweiss”. And finally, they were on location in Salzburg! I’ve been there, and it’s like the most beautiful place on Earth. That alone could make a crappy movie tolerable.
Now, with all of that said about the Academy Award winning movie, let’s talk about musical theatre. After all, that’s what this originally was, but we’ve all pretty much forgotten that. It was the 1959 Tony winner for best new musical, and Mary Martin (a little ole’ country girl from Texas) won the Tony for best actress, as Maria. Did she sound like Julie Andrews? No. And neither have the hundreds of other Maria’s across the globe that have portrayed her in revivals and other productions since. That’s like saying no one can sing “Tosca” except for Maria Callas. So what, are we supposed to just let one of opera’s greatest works lay dead because one singer who was so amazing that we’re too closed minded to accept anyone else in the role? Let’s look at this TV movie as what it was. A special live performance of a legendary piece of musical theatre history, by one of the genre’s greatest teams. Kind of like one of those “Live from Lincoln Center” specials, if you will. I thought the casting was very well-done. They had a large ensemble of notables from Broadway, and everyone had a unique and well developed sound that didn’t sound like the mass produced sound that most theatre programs are cranking out these days. I mean come on guys. Look at it like this, if there was any other show for one night only with that kind of cast, it would be a sold-out event. I would love to see a program at Carnegie that had Audra MacDonald, Christiane Noll, and Laura Benanti!
Another thing to remember. Some of the greatest Broadway renditions of songs and most memorable people in a character often come from revivals, and no one even knows what the first person who sang “O Mio Babbino Caro” sounds like. Give people a chance to develop their own takes own these well-loved characters, because one day, it may just be your turn to do the same thing!