This Thursday evening the world will be watching the talented Carrie Underwood step into some big shoes and Austrian-inspired braids to bring The Sound of Music, Live! to a new generation of television watchers. The world has long been fascinated by the magical musical and iconic film. For nearly a half century, families have gathered together to enjoy the Academy Award-winning film and the music that helped it garner awards and adoration. Growing up with The Sound of Music has made many fans feel like part of the onscreen von Trapp family. And plenty of them have their opinions as to whether the Carrie Underwood casting is a wise one. I recently had the honor of catching up with kids from the original cast for my special series for Parade Magazine and my podcast Whine At 9. The process was fascinating and fun and the response to the series generated more conversation and enthusiasm than I had ever anticipated.
My individual conversations with Charmian Carr (Liesl), Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich), Heather Menzies (Louisa), Duane Chase (Kurt), Angela Cartwright (Brigitta), Debbie Turner (Marta), and Kym Karath (Gretl) yielded an incredible feel for the dynamics on the film set, the inner genius of director Robert Wise, the inward and outward beauty of Julie Andrews, and the strong sibling-like bonds that were created between children who shared an extremely unique experience in a magical foreign place. As adults, they have all gone in different directions but remain committed to their friendship and keeping The Sound of Music legacy alive.
Fascinatingly, the original actors voiced no negativity about the NBC special. In fact, it was the rumbling of their fans that I've heard -- fans who can't seem to warm up to the idea of anyone recreating a role so strongly associated with their favorite memories and the legendary Julie Andrews. And yet, the warmth I felt from my insider glimpse of The Sound of Music and these former child actors, makes me think that fans need to embrace some of the main concepts of the film (kindness and creativity) and give another talented woman a chance. Critiquing before a performance isn't constructive, it's just critical. In fact, we should applaud Underwood for having the confidence and the guts to take on this project.
After being immersed in The Sound of Music for the past month and spending time getting to know the youngest players in the mix, I am obsessed with the iconic film. I've been humming Edelweiss for six days straight and I'm pretty sure when I stop, it'll only be because Sixteen Going on Seventeen popped into my head. But being obsessed and informed, also makes me realize that NBC's musical format is a different one -- one that may bring an equally worthy dimension to The Sound of Music franchise. There will be the intimacy of the theater, not the majesty of the Alps. And the cast will connect because, like those before them, they are trained professionals. New audiences will be intrigued and watch.
Yes, it is a steep mountain to climb if you examine the background of the original film. The emotional responses of audiences likely originated from brilliant casting and some very special chemistry between the players. The original children seemed like real siblings because they were actors, but they also were living like siblings (with their parents in tow), or at least classmates, in Austria for months on end. Between takes, Julie Andrews (a new mother in real life) treated them as if she were their mother or a beloved nanny. These kinds of emotional connections aren't easily manufactured, but are they critical in a stage performance? I'm planning on chatting with my Sound of Music friends during and after Thursday's The Sound of Music, Live! and, in the spirit of the iconic film, I'm hoping to add it to the list of my favorite things.