Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music is pretty much the basis of all my taste in music, film, and theater. I’ve gone on record saying that opening shot of Julie Andrews frolicking in the hills is one of my reasons for existing, and as a four year old I used to prance around the living room singing along with her on my tape recorder. Would that I had the video to prove it.
My favorite was “I Have Confidence,” a weirdly underrated song that captures all of the earnest, intensely agreeable conviction that is Julie Andrews. I recently saw the movie again for the first time in maybe a decade, and was blown away by the acting in that scene. Andrews fits an almost inconceivable amount of on-point reactions and emotions into the music; you can see every thought that enters her head, even as she skips down the lane belting gustily, with that iconic bag and guitar case. It’s simply an example of a spectacular performance, something I surely appreciated as a kid but can now revere as an adult.
Of course there were whole parts of the movie that made a different impression in my youth, or no impression at all. Did you know there’s a fabulous baroness who, rather than fiendishly trying to separate Fraulein Maria and her true love Captain von Trapp, actually loves the captain, as in, not for his money? And that there’s an uncle named Max who hasn’t a penny to his name but clearly doesn’t see the baroness as anything more than a friend? So did you know she’s sort of his fag hag?? Four-year-old me didn’t!
I did remember those rather wonderful characters from the stage production, where they are featured more prominently. At twelve I played Kurt (of course) in a community theater production, at the beginning of my love affair with theater. I danced the Ländler with Maria and actually hit that high note in “So Long, Farewell,” that note that is cheekily dubbed by Julie Andrews in the movie. It was probably the greatest three months of my life. I am so so fond of this musical, and having seen the film again over Thanksgiving, I will not stand for these claims I’m finding that it’s a belabored, didactic slog. Julie Andrews’ astonishing performance makes this movie quite the opposite – a testament to the power of musical language, a classic of the highest order.
So you understand my extreme levels of reluctance, exasperation and dread over NBC’s live staged version, which airs tonight (right now, in fact). I’ve read many of the think-pieces written in light of this event, and particularly connected with the following:
- Tara Ariano at Previously.tv invents subtext for the five stars of “The Sound of Music Live!” the best of which is surely Audra McDonald’s point that many many theater people were more qualified to play Maria and the Captain.
- Speaking of the goddess, Buzzfeed’s Jose Antonio Vargas waxes poetic about Miss Audra’s immense performance capabilities, which will of course be the highlight of the broadcast and make “Climb Every Mountain” 100% hers, forever. The incredible videos he includes are worth repeated viewing.
- Linda Holmes at NPR’s Monkey See blog levels some criticism at the original movie, but I will allow it because it’s Linda Holmes and it’s poking fun. And “‘You look happy to meet me,’ sings a man to a plant”? Come on, she’s right.
- Melinda Taub writes restrainedly from the perspective of the baroness – such a delightful epiphany for me.
- And Mark Blankenship makes a great point that NBC’s broadcasting a live theatrical production could potentially make the canon more accessible to the masses. He’s somewhat optimistic thanks to Audra, and if it sucks, hey, the world will go on.
In honor of this broadcast, about which we surely all feel many things, I’ve decided to emphasize the inherent humor in this situation. Since there’s nothing that better sums up my thoughts than the dramatic disparity between Julie Andrews, my idol, and Carrie Underwood, American Idol, I’ve created some memes to join in the fun. Enjoy.