‘The Sound of Music Live!’ recap: Does Carrie Underwood deliver?

There are so, so many things about “The Sound of Music Live!” that I can’t get excited about. Commercials would be one of them, as you don’t tend to get those on DVDs or, thank God, in Broadway plays (at least, not yet). I also fear anything that had an exclamation point in the title unless it’s a parody. Then, there’s Carrie Underwood, who has the voice of an angel but zippo acting experience. Well, zippo if you don’t count small roles in “How I Met Your Mother” and “Soul Surfer,” which I don’t. 

If she wasn’t following in Julie Andrew’s footsteps (and Mary Martin’s before her), that might not be a big deal. But she is, and it is, and “The Sound of Music” is a classic by any standard. These aren’t just big shoes to fill; they’re more like yeti house slippers or something. And if you think I’m just being a crank, note that the actual von Trapps are pissed that Underwood has taken the role — they would have preferred Anne Hathaway. Hey, me too!

Still, I’m interested to see a rendition of the Broadway musical (which accounts for the epic three-hour length). I’m a fan of the movie, of course, but this could be fun — unless I can’t shake fond memories of Julie Andrews (who, of course, was the younger, more photogenic star chosen to take the project to the big screen instead of Martin). Maybe Underwood will win me over. Anything is possible! The hills are alive with the sound of music and all that!

Here’s Carrie Underwood singing “The Sound of Music” in the mountains! As long as she’s singing, she’s great. And hey, here are the nuns!  And one of them is Audra McDonald! Very nice rendition of “Maria,” admittedly. Can we just listen to McDonald singing with Underwood for the rest of the show? That would be awesome. Still, glad to see they’re sticking to the Broadway musical structure and content thus far. 

Okay, some people have British accents and some don’t? I realize Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”) is English, but consistency would be nice. 

Two thoughts — damn, that stage noise is loud. Secondly, the absence of a live audience, especially when the staff is firing witticisms back and forth, is jarring. Maybe the stagehands could laugh or something?

Stephen Moyer does make a pretty convincing Captain von Trapp. Nice casting. 

Uh-oh. Kids. I expect adorable children are also the most likely to screw up. But so far, so good. They’re projecting to the cheap seats, which makes perfect sense (this is, really, a stage musical), but it also seems like they’re in a different project than Underwood, who is very naturalistic and appears to be on a TV show (which this is as well). So confusing! 

So… the kids are American, the governess is American, the staff is British, and Captain von Trapp is British. Got it.

Oh, good. “Do-Re-Mi” should pep up matters. The stage sound isn’t as loud when there’s singing. Music — it’s a good thing!

I’m realizing now what’s great about seeing a show live — while it’s a personal experience, it’s also a shared one. You’re with an audience, and you’re reacting with an audience. It makes up for the sacrifice of lavish sets, real mountains and movie theater sound quality. So, we don’t have the former or the latter, which means we get awkward silence that makes everything feel like a rehearsal and, yay, commercials.  

I am missing Julie Andrews right now. Underwood seems to be having fun, and she’s not quite a potted plant, but she’s also not Julie Andrews. I am sure some people will consider this just fine, however. 

Rolf and Liesl and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”! The supporting cast is excellent — I’m guessing a lot of Broadway pros here. The staging is pretty great, which is a nice bonus, given that this is live and must be a bear to coordinate. They’re making good use of the commercial breaks as far as the sets. 

Okay, these kids are adorable. That is all. Underwood does a nice job with “The Lonely Goatherd,” but I’ve got to nitpick — she doesn’t really bring the yodel.  

We’ve passed the hour mark — no egregious mistakes. I mean, other than casting. 

“I am an Austrian! I will not be heiled!” Granted, Christopher Plummer was more restrained, but Moyer is feisty and grumpy and passionate. I think that’s needed, given that Underwood isn’t really tearing up the joing. 

Oh, the confrontation between Maria and Captain von Trapp. No, no. Please, let’s not do the teary thing, Carrie! There’s very little fire here; she’s a bit of a mushy Maria. I just don’t feel the character is 1) holding anything back or 2) falling desperately in love with someone she can’t tell about it. 

Stephen Moyer sings passably well (which is all the role requires). Nicely done. 

There is zero heat between Stephen Moyer and Carrie Underwood. None — I mean, he’s doing his best, but she just doesn’t seem to care all that much. The chemistry is so absent that Frau Shrader becoming jealous of these two doesn’t even make sense. 

When Brigitta tries to convince Maria that Captain von Trapp is in love with her, she seems more annoyed than upset. Granted, chemistry is hard to define. It doesn’t necessarily correlate with acting skill. But this is… man, this is just hard to watch. 

Cute kids again. “So Long, Farewell.” Adorbs.

Maria is off to the convent, so tortured is she by her love for Captain von Trapp. “Do you love him?” Mother Superior asks. “I don’t know!” Maria says. And we don’t know, either! Audra McDonald is acting her ass off while she’s singing “Climb Every Mountain.” See, Carrie? This is how you do it! This! This! Oh, this is killing me. Great, Carrie Underwood is crying again. That should not be your fallback position, girl. Maria was tougher than that. Jeez.

The sad children sing “My Favorite Things.” And Maria returns in a sharp blue suit. I feel as if Underwood has a much stronger connection to the kids than to Moyer. She’s great with the kids. Too bad this is a love story. 

Not much of a reaction to the kids telling her Captain von Trapp is getting married. Man. Seriously? Just… sigh. 

One hour to go. This would feel like a marathon if not for the frequent commercial breaks. I now look forward to them. 

Underwood isn’t here as Max, Elsa and Captain von Trapp rip into “No Way to Stop It.” It’s like watching an actual musical!

I swear I can almost see Carrie Underwood thinking, “God, I really don’t want this guy to kiss me.” Can someone grab this kids and ask them to come out? Because she really likes them better. God, I feel uncomfortable. 

Worst. Kiss. Ever between Captain von Trapp and Maria. Hey, singing! Singing is better! 

The wedding, with a reprise of “Maria.” She seems so happy! Why? Then, she seems less happy. Again, why? I don’t feel that Underwood is making acting decisions at this point, but just trying to remember to hit her marks. After the two hour mark, this must be exhausting (walk and sing and change costumes and remember lines and act! Yikes!). But hey, that’s why Anne Hathaway would have been the go-to casting choice for this. 

Nazis! Half an hour to go! Please, please, let’s wrap it up. Oh, Carrie Underwood’s back, but she’s with the kids. It’s so much better when she’s with the kids. 

I’m noticing that while singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” as a duet, Carrie Underwood is so expressive and emotional. How does one bottle this? She has it in her; we just don’t get it when the music stops. 

As usual, Rolf is a dick. If they had to rewrite anything (and they don’t), I might have voted for Rolf to not be a jerk and just run off with Liesl. I mean, yes, he does a very important good thing later, but still.   

Captain von Trapp seems very worried about the Nazis. Maria doesn’t. She seems slightly stressed, as if she realizes she forgot to get ketchup at the grocery store. And it’s hot dog night! 

Oops, Stephen Moyer overshot his mark. Cue second camera! Not bad given we’re in the end run and there’s hardly ben a misstep.

I want to see the Broadway production with Stephen Moyer. And the rest of the cast, really, except for Carrie Underwood. I know it feels like I’m picking on her. Again, voice of an angel. But it’s pretty glaring at this point — she is not Maria. Not even close. But maybe if I had cheap seats, I’d think she was great. It would be better if she was just a pretty shape in the far distance with a beautiful voice. 

Time for the big finale! “Edelweiss,” very beautifully performed here. There’s some nice editing here, especially the cut to Max. 

Okay, we’re about ready to wrap this up. This was actually much better than I expected in some ways — the staging was excellent, everyone hit their marks (mostly). Audra McDonald was as excellent as ever, Stephen Moyer was more than solid, the kids were good, it was the damn “The Sound of Music,” so we know we love it. I’ll even hand it to Carrie Underwood that she hit her marks, she sang beautifully, and she never flubbed a line. But… as I said, yeti house slippers. If anything, it made me truly appreciate the amazing talent that is Julie Andrews — and how critical it is to have a talent like this as the lynchpin for a project as important as this one. 

What did you think of “The Sound of Music”?