Regardless of the quality of "The Sound of Music" Dec. 5, I'm thrilled that the ratings were strong. Why? Not because I want NBC to rake in the do-re-mi but because I selfishly hope it's success leads to future live TV productions of stage work (as long as it doesn't mean, say, Taylor Hicks in "Man of LaMancha").
Of course, such presentations are nothing new. TV has been home to live musical broadcasts since its early days, among them "Cinderella" and "Peter Pan.".Nearly the entire Stephen Sondheim lineup has found its way to PBS. Plus plays and musicals recorded live from the stage occasionally pop up in movie theaters. Recently I wrote about the London production of Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along." On Dec. 11, you can catch Noel Coward's "Private Lives" at a theater near you.
In addition to introducing shows to new audiences, here's hoping "Sound of Music" viewers are sparked to explore some of the talent beyond the obligatory popular headliner. Audra McDonald, for instance, is about as good as musical theater talent gets. (I speak from having seen her in "Carousel," "Ragtime," and "Master Class.")
While I'm still waiting patiently for a McDonald concert here, I'm happy to report that Laura Benanti, who played Elsa in "The Sound of Music," will be appearing at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in June.
The Cabaret has been luring top Broadway talent for five years now. The Palladium, too, has been a hot spot for top theater talent (Mandy Patinkin performs there in April).
And, with little fanfare, some of the best relatively unknowns on Broadway have come to town for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's pop series (I'm still waiting to hear the cast annouced for the May "Anything Goes in Concert").
We no longer have "The Ed Sullivan Show" and other crossover TV shows to introduce theater talent to mainstream audiences. "The Sound of Music" seems to have picked up a bit of that slack.
So I'll refrain (for now) from Carrie Underwood-bashing.