TV's 'Sound of Music' a ratings hit

December 6, 2013
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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.

  • Ummm!
    Carrie Underwood was the reason this drew huge numbers despite what you so called critics say about her. America loves Carrie and the numbers to prove it are enormous!!!!!
    • Singer, not actress
      She is definitely a singer, but NOT an actress!!!
    • The hills are alive
      Good article and a different take than most. The good take away here is it kept my family entertained and my kids loved it. Also, millions of americans were introduced to not only the stage production of this story but also to musical theater in general. Good job NBC. Coming from a state where people think tucking your shirt into your jeans is acceptable wedding attire...I consider this a win.
    • Live up lip-synched
      Audra McDonald's voice was lip-synched despite the touting of the show as 'live'. Lip-synching is common on live performances since a recording is played and the artist merely mouths the song. A decent show but Carrie Underwood's talent lies in singing, not acting.
    • Opportunity
      It gave me the opportunity to tell my friends, who watched it with their kids, to make sure they do the musical justice and give their children a chance to rent the movie and watch the "good" Maria. Who knows, if they continue to like it and get familiar with the play, theyy'll actually go see it live ON A STAGE next time they have a chance!
    • don't bash Underwood
      A questionable actress, but great singer and good woman. Underwood brought a classic musical to a record number of people without any "costume malfunctions" or any twerking around like a cat in heat. Underwood is a refreshing change from vulgar contemporary American "culture". Support her; don't bash her.
    • Why the Taylor Hicks' slam?
      Was the Taylor Hicks' dig necessary? Mr. Hicks has been very successfully headlining in Vegas since 2012. He recently appeared in Law & Order and has an album coming out in 2014. He is one busy man and one of the most charitable artists out there and a true gentleman. I've heard him interviewed many times on radio and TV and the comments from the interviewer is that he is one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. I can verify that, I have met him several times. You really can't appreciate Taylor unless you go to one of his live shows. Hope you get the chance to!
    • Good article
      Okay, so Carrie isn't Julie Andrews, but who is? If there hadn't been a big star like Carrie Underwood in the lead, no one would have seen this production. I think it was a brave thing for her to do and she did well considering she's probably never acted before. And BTW, why the snark about Taylor Hicks? Ask anyone who's seen his show. I saw him at the House of Blues once, and his was as good as any show I've ever seen...and I've seen some big names. The man flat KNOWS how to entertain! If they ever do have "Fu Manchu" with Taylor Hicks, hey, I'm there!
    • responses
      Mal: Haven't heard anyone else say that McDonald didn't sing live. What's your source? DB and NA: Not questioning his talent. Just pointing out that a performer has to make sense in a role. And, truth is, I couldn't think of many other American Idol winners offhand. Thanks for reading, Lou

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