Fa­mil­iar yet dif­fer­ent

Hills com­ing alive with Th­e­sound­of­mu­si­clive!

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By FRA­ZIER MOORE

Maria, for­mer would-be nun, is about to get mar­ried. Star­ring as Maria in NBC’s new ver­sion of The Sound Of Mu­sic, Car­rie Un­der­wood is clad in her own T-shirt and leg­gings plus a wed­ding veil as she rev­er­ently steps through the bare-bones Man­hat­tan re­hearsal space while three dozen cast­mates, on their feet as if in church, sing “How do you solve a prob­lem like Maria?”

Un­der­wood’s pro­ces­sion ends at the “al­tar” (marked by a mu­sic stand) to join her groom, Cap­tain von Trapp, played by jeans-andsweater-sport­ing Stephen Moyer.

Dur­ing this pre­lim­i­nary run-through a few weeks ago, much work clearly re­mained to get The Sound Of Mu­sic Live! ready for air­time on Dec 5 in the United States, when it, along with ev­ery­one in­volved, will make his­tory: More than a half-cen­tury has passed since a broad­cast net­work has dared to mount a fullscale mu­si­cal for live TV.

it would have been risky enough re­vis­it­ing this rodgers and Ham­mer­stein clas­sic on any terms. But this is no re­make of the not-tobe-tam­pered-with Julie an­drews jug­ger­naut, de­clares Neil Meron. Meron and long­time part­ner Craig Zadan are the tele­cast’s Os­car­win­ning ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers.

in­stead, The Sound Of Mu­sic Live! is the 1959 Broad­way mu­si­cal reimag­ined for TV, then given ex­tra crackle with a live pre­sen­ta­tion.

Meron’s mes­sage: Ev­ery­body knows The Sound Of Mu­sic, or thinks they do from the 1965 film nearly ev­ery­one has seen. But rel­a­tively few fans are ac­quainted with the stage orig­i­nal. Draw­ing from it, The Sound Of Mu­sic Live! is meant to feel fa­mil­iar, yet at the same time come across as new and dif­fer­ent.

Con­sider: Moyer with cast­mates Laura Benanti (as Baroness Elsa Schrader) and Chris­tian Borle (as Max Detweiler) are re­hears­ing a cou­ple of weeks later a saucy song ti­tled How Can Love Sur­vive? This song will be brand-new to most view­ers of the tele­cast - it was dropped from the movie.

“Plenty of noth­ing you haven’t got. How can love sur­vive?” Max tune­fully teases the wealthy Elsa, who, in her posh re­la­tion­ship with her fi­ance, Capt. von Trapp, can never count theirs among “all the fa­mous love af­fairs (where) lovers starve and snug­gle.”

This num­ber, sung to an in­stru­men­tal track recorded by a 40-piece orches­tra, takes place on the sump­tu­ous von Trapp ter­race, com­plete with a foun­tain and a panoramic view of the alps.

There are still no cos­tumes - at the mo­ment, Borle is wear­ing jeans and a Bat­man T-shirt - but by now the en­tire pro­duc­tion has re­de­ployed to a cav­ernous Long is­land, New York, sound­stage.

Grum­man Stu­dios’ Stage 3, with square footage ri­val­ing a foot­ball field’s, is now home to the ter­race, along with five neigh­bour­ing sets evok­ing pre-World War ii aus­tria in­clud­ing the abbey, a fes­ti­val site draped with huge swastikas and the sum­mit over which (spoiler alert) Maria, the Cap­tain and his seven chil­dren pass to flee the Nazis at the mu­si­cal’s con­clu­sion.

it is for this soar­ing fin­ish that au­dra McDon­ald reprises Climb Ev’ry Moun­tain, the breath­tak­ing an­them that Mother abbess in­tro­duces as she sends Maria into the world and into the von Trapp house­hold.

“in that scene, Mother abbess is giv­ing Maria tough love, kick­ing her out of the abbey,” says McDon­ald. “But Car­rie is so mov­ing and so sweet, my chal­lenge is to not cry when i sing it.”

When she sings it, McDon­ald is fully ca­pa­ble of bring­ing to tears ev­ery­one within earshot. She is a clas­si­cally trained so­prano, a Tony- and Grammy-win­ning singer and stage ac­tress who, for good mea­sure, ap­peared for four sea­sons on Pri­vate Prac­tice.

Though best known as a vam­pire on True Blood, Stephen Moyer, too, is a the­atre vet­eran. Last sum­mer he re­turned to what he calls his first love, the mu­si­cal stage, af­ter 18 years’ ab­sence for a pro­duc­tion of Chicago at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl. Then he re­ported for work on The Sound Of Mu­sic Live!

and then there’s Car­rie Un­der­wood. De­spite her sta­tus as a mul­ti­plat­inum coun­try mu­sic su­per­star who rose to fame as the win­ner of Amer­i­can Idol in 2005, at first glance she might seem some­thing of a wild card in the Sound Of Mu­sic cast: She has never had a ma­jor act­ing role be­fore.

“Car­rie is one of the bravest artistes we’ve ever worked with,” says Meron, who notes that she ar­rived two weeks be­fore the pro­duc­tion’s six-week re­hearsal be­gan with her lines fully mem­o­rised, to get a head start.

“Ev­ery day,” she says dur­ing a break, “i feel like i dis­cover new things and how to go places in act­ing that i didn’t think i could go.”

Even if she’s a drama neo­phyte as she faces her Sound Of Mu­sic trial by fire, Un­der­wood, by one mea­sure, is the cast’s old hand: No one knows live TV, and its pres­sures, like she does.

“But this time, there’s no chance of me be­ing voted out,” she laughs. “i’m here to stay.”

as she speaks, it’s a scant 16 days un­til the broad­cast. By week’s end, cam­eras (as many as a dozen) and tons of other broad­cast equip­ment would be brought in. in the park­ing lot, TV trucks would join the city of dress­ing-room trail­ers.

Dur­ing Thanks­giv­ing week, the en­sem­ble is re­hears­ing in full cos­tume.

al­ready, the cast has recorded a Sound Of Mu­sic Live! al­bum. a home-video edi­tion of the broad­cast goes on sale Dec 17.

if graced with good rat­ings, this won’t be the last such mu­si­cal event staged live for TV, says Meron.

The cast and crew are ready for the night of Dec 5, for three hours start to fin­ish, with no reshoots and no post­pro­duc­tion fixes to fall back on. “There’s an ex­cite­ment about that,” Benanti says. “it feels dan­ger­ous. any­thing could hap­pen!

“Even if you’re only cu­ri­ous,” she adds invit­ingly, “you should watch.” – aP

Un­der­wood and moyer re­hearse for Th­e­SoundOf mu­sicLive!

Happy fam­ily: In Th­e­Sound­Of­mu­si­cLive!, Stephen moyer stars as cap­tain von Trapp (fore­ground cen­tre) and car­rie Un­der­wood is maria (se­cond row cen­tre). The von Trapp chil­dren are played by (clock­wise from left) Grace rund­haug as marta, Joe West as Kurt, ari­ane rine­hart as Liesl, michael ni­gro as Friedrich, ella Watts-Gor­man as Luisa, and Pey­ton ella as Gretl.

‘Let’s start at the very be­gin­ning...’

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