How Do We Solve a Problem Like This?

I know that I typically never write about current events, with the obvious exception of the current events in my life, but I have to make an exception today, because last night NBC aired their live version of the Sound of Music and I’m irked.

First off, let’s be clear about a couple things:

  1. I am not a huge musical theatre fan but do have my favorites (modern), appreciate the genre and am quite familiar with the classics. (This is, of course, despite my theatre career likely being due to seeing Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan.)
  2. I have a fond memory of watching the Sound of Music film at a drive-in as a child.
  3. I didn’t watch the entire show last night. Do Re Me was as Fa as I could get before I asked to change the channel.

There were numerous issues with the production right from the start, but I’m always willing to give something a chance and not dismiss it early on. The production quality, from the beginning was questionable. I know it was live and people seemed perhaps (rightfully) nervous, but what was really off were the technical elements.

The sound was poor, echo-y and messy.

The camera work was uninspired.

The lighting was….virtually disastrous. I haven’t seen so many shadows across actors’ faces since student productions in classrooms back in college.

When the nuns were trying to “Solve a Problem Like Maria” all I kept thinking was how do we solve a problem of audio balance. The music was overwhelming their voices and the output was unbalanced.

Did they rehearse this? Was there a tech rehearsal?

And furthermore, the director didn’t seem to realize the difference needed in pace and energy between directing for the stage and the screen. NBC could’ve put some quick ads in those gaps.

Finally we meet Maria and she’s…..OK, I guess. I will say that Carrie Underwood has a lovely tone to her voice, and since we’re all thinking of Julie Andrews, I guess her tone can at times be comparable. And then….she acts.

Or tries to.

If there’s one thing I just cannot stand it’s bad acting. And this was some bad acting. Still, I hung in there.

Then there was the wonderful A Few of my Favorite Things number where all I could think was “Oh, look. Audra is trying to show Carrie how to sing a song in character within the context of the play.”

Audra McDonald was wonderful and Carrie Underwood looked like a complete amateur.

When the number was over my first thought was, “This needs an audience to applaud.” (Assuming they would.) Audra McDonald was terrific, but it felt like it needed that moment of applause to transition us back in to the scene. But that didn’t work. Off we went, right back to the weak, community-theatre acting on one-half of the stage.

Still, I hung in there. I wanted to meet the kids!

Unfortunately all I could notice when meeting the Captain, the house staff and the children was more about the directing, and even more about how Carrie Underwood’s acting was so poor, so amateurish it was painful. There was no timing, no layering, no subtlety. I think she was able to memorize her lines and figure out which word in the sentence should get the emphasis…..and that’s what bad high school actors do.

By the time they were into Do Re Me I couldn’t take any more. I knew what was coming and I didn’t care if the Nazis caught them this time.

We changed the channel.

Today I’m even more irked by some of the things I read online. There are people and articles trying to justify the whole thing, remind us how brave and risky it was for her and NBC to do this. How it was a callback to live musical productions on TV in the past.

Yes, it was risky, and I’m a nostalgic person by nature so I appreciated the idea. But it was also so poorly done and weak.

As an acting teacher taught me: If I’m bored, I’m going to want to open hard candy.

I was craving a Jolly Rancher and I don’t even like them.

And furthermore: There’s so much talent out there! I don’t understand why Carrie Underwood? Yes, I know – commercialism. Sell air time. I get it. But surely there was someone else with a recognizable face who could’ve pulled off that part?

But no. Carrie Underwood is a big country singing star, and she’s wholesome and it’s the holidays and this will be a wonderful event. And maybe that’s what irks me the most. Why didn’t some producer say they let’s do this both right AND sell air time? How ingenious that would’ve been. How innovative! How so much like TV producers in the past who put people like Julie Andrews, and other triple-threats on the tiny screen?

But not today. Sell the air time with some big name and who cares if it’s crap?

You know what? I care. I know we can do better. It’s too bad we didn’t.

Now, where’s my candy?

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