Commentary: Carrie Underwood plays solid Maria von Trapp despite NBC’s ‘Sound of Music’ falling flat

December 9, 2013
Carrie Underwood backstage at 55th Annual Grammy Awards Feb. 10. Underwood played the role of Maria von Trapp in a live television performance of "The Sound of Music" Dec. 6 on NBC. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Carrie Underwood backstage at 55th Annual Grammy Awards Feb. 10. Underwood played the role of Maria von Trapp in a live television performance of “The Sound of Music” Dec. 6 on NBC.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

“The Sound of Music” turned out a bit pitchy, and as a result, critics are a bit itchy.

But let’s start at the very beginning, as it is a very good place to start.

In NBC’s three-hour “The Sound of Music Live!” Thursday night, country singer and star Carrie Underwood proved to be a little underwhelming as Maria von Trapp, and the network seemed a little more occupied climbing the mountain of flawlessly executed live TV than actually sound-checking the hills.

This is by no means a revolutionary review of the show, though.

Since the performance’s airing, which garnered 18.6 million viewers making it No. 1 for Thursday evening, USA TODAY has proclaimed the broadcast to to be “a little off” and advised viewers to just rent the movie from 1965. Film critic Alonso Duralde expressed his preference of 2003’s “From Justin To Kelly” to Thursday’s performance via Twitter. “Saturday Night Live” inserted Kristen Wiig’s baby-handed character Judice and (literally) poked fun at NBC’s portrayal of the Von Trapp family.

Meanwhile, Underwood is making like her role Sister Maria and praying for the critics.

“Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight… 1 Peter 2:1 – 25,” Underwood tweeted Friday night.

While it is quite noble of her to lift up the “haters” in prayer to the holy trinity, it is with great pain I must admit she, as documented in the production, is not very triple-threatening.

Her voice is heavenly, but there is not much left for the multi-Grammy winner to prove in the realm. It was midway through “Do-Re-Mi,” though, running completely out of breath leading the Von Trapp children up and down a staircase, when it seemed like Underwood could have probably benefited from an understudy.

However, Underwood’s lack of acting chops is hardly a failure or testament to being talentless, which is unfortunately the conclusion to which many jump if a songstress can’t deliver the “Romeo and Juliet” chorus to the tune of “Single Ladies” while patting her head and drawing a circle on her stomach.

This Kindergarten mindset that something is generally good or bad and is therefore a grand attribution to this person’s overall ability is, for a lack of a better fitting phrase, the reason we can’t have nice things.

Of course, it’s not that we don’t have nice things, we just choose not to acknowledge that we have nice things. Underwood is a nice thing – heck, she’s one of a few of my favorite things. She was the first country star to come out of “American Idol,” her success is unmatched by many others of her genre and she has a super smokin’ hot husband. Underwood is America’s sweetheart. All of a sudden, though, she didn’t offer a stunning performance playing an Austrian, and the Internet deems her a terrible, talentless, tone-deaf thing while a good percentage of the population can’t distinguish middle C on the piano from the Mediterranean Sea.

Underwood is a great thing even if “The Sound of Music Live!” was a little flat on her behalf, and comparing her and the casts’ performance to the 1965 film is apples and oranges. While Julie Andrews was blessed with multiple takes, Underwood and company had one shot. Credit must be given where credit is due.

Growing up in a musical family, watching “The Sound of Music” is a favorite past time right next to trying to play Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” on flute by ear. I recognize the brilliance of creators Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and the cultural and historical significance of the work, even though it debuted when my parents were barely a twinkle in my grandparents’ eyes. In fact, I auditioned for the role of Maria in a school production when I was in fourth grade.

I guess I missed the part where Underwood slandered the name of Maria von Trapp. But haters are gonna hate and drink their hate-erade and such, but before you start throwing tomatoes, at least try to yodel “The Lonely Goatherd” in a nightgown while jumping on a bed with seven child actors surrounding you as your hair is pulled from the root in a super tight milkmaid braid.

I did, and I lost the role to fifth-grader Emily Sherring. Name changed because I am still bitter.

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