Reviewer: Mark Clegg
One of the most performed and much loved musicals in history, a Bank Holiday television staple, a theatrical sing-along phenomenon, a constant source of parody for everything from French and Saunders to The Simpsons, Andrew Llloyd Webber’s televised quest to solve a problem like Maria… The Sound of Music is many things to many people – and now it is also a TV special that was broadcast live on NBC in December 2013 of which this CD is the cast recording.
The immediate question is why bother remaking a classic?. The answer lies in the massive ratings that the broadcast received and the fact that it has already lead onto NBC commissioning more, similar projects. This can only be a good thing for fans of musical theatre but where does this CD sit as a stand-alone recording?
The casting of American Idol winner and Country Music star Carrie Underwood as Maria seems like a stunt and this was proven by the criticism that she received for her acting abilities on the broadcast. However these issues are not apparent on this CD where her vocals are excellent and well suited to the rôle, even if she sometimes veers dangerously close performing in a pop voice. True Blood’s Stephen Moyer displays a surprisingly lovely voice as Captain von Trapp and his “Edelweiss” is beautifully sung, even it does lack the emotional resonance of Christopher Plummer’s. Audra McDonald matches – and possibly exceeds – all previous Mother Abbesses and Laura Benanti and Christian Borle have fun as Elsa and Max. The younger cast members and children are also all excellent with special mention to Michael Campayno and Ariane Rinehart as Rolf and Liesl.
Inevitably the spectre of the film adaptation floats over this recording. This is most felt with the accents used by the cast in this recording. There is no earthly reason why a story set in Austria should feature English accents and yet Julie Andrews and co have conditioned us to expect it with these songs and characters. This makes the American accents used in this CD seem a little odd, particularly with Underwood‘s Maria whose Oklahoma accent would be perhaps better suited to Annie Oakley or Calamity Jane. This is not a massive issue and gets easier to accept with each subsequent listen, but it does seem as if the director wanted this show to most definitely be ‘Broadway’ and it certainly sets this recording apart from the more familiar ones.
There are no surprises here. Anyone even remotely familiar with the piece will know what is coming and when – with the possible exception of the two dispensable songs sung by Max and Elsa that were cut from the film. The cast perform very well, the orchestrations are beautiful and the score speaks for itself. As a memento of the TV broadcast it serves its purpose and it’s a nice curio for fans of Underwood, and although as a recording there is nothing really wrong with it, you may still want to stick with the original cast album or the film soundtrack.