Thursday night I convinced my husband to make a simple dinner so I could get settled in for The Sound Of Music Live on NBC. (For those who wonder, it was spectacular grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.) Before the broadcast began, I posted a reminder to my social media connections that this production was based on the original stage version, not the movie. I also posted, "I will not be live reviewing/snarking #soundofmusiclive - I prefer to revel in the joy of seeing Broadway professionals LIVE on TV." Of course, in my role as the host of an arts program, I seldom post reviews; rather, I choose to focus on interviews with the artists. Regular friends and followers don't always share that philosophy.
As the show began, it truly did "fill my heart with the sound of music." The musical theater nerd I have always been literally leaned forward to the edge of my seat as we saw the nuns and our first glimpse of Audra McDonald.
Not everyone seemed to share my excitement. At least not in a positive way. Twitter and Facebook seemed to explode with negative comments before the first commercial break.
At a time when so many bemoan the young female celebrities who attempt to change their image with, shall we say, "edgy work," it surprises me that so many were eager to pounce on Carrie Underwood. This was certainly a risk for her. Music stars are big brands. It must be difficult for Ms. Underwood to take such a high profile project outside her platform. The reality is there aren't many ways she can try something new and have it not be high profile.
The Broadway veterans in the production, Laura Benanti, Christian Borle, and Audra McDonald chief among them, were taking a risk, too. They have established reputations in the theater. In fact, every performer who takes the stage on Broadway or in a small local production is taking a risk. To them, the stakes are as high as their passion for the work. That is a major reason I often prefer to be a cheerleader of the work even when I can't be a champion of the result.
NBC earned an estimated 18.5 million viewers for The Sound Of Music Live, their largest non-sports event since the finale of ER in 2009. Broadcasting it as a Live event was a critical part of that rating for NBC in the DVR, time-shifting era. Who would have missed it live, even if it was just so they could post snarky comments? I can only hope this will mean we will have more opportunities to see live musical theater on television. When not everyone has access to the arts, this was a very good place to start.