There’s not much point in recapping the plot of The Sound of Music, but we can DEFINITELY take a gander at the NBC costumes, which ended in some divinely cracked-out headgear that had Jessica and I dropping more unsavory language over Instant Messenger than we have in a long, long time.

They look like background players for an as-yet-nonexistent Katy Perry tour called Oktoberfest. We live-tweeted it, and I’m embedding a couple of those tweets, especially where I think we pretty much said it better the first time.

As for the show: It’s clear that Carrie Underwood took it extremely seriously. She did not shirk anything, she sang her heart out, and she tried really hard to carry the show even though in the end it was beyond her capabilities at this point in her career. NBC probably chose its Sunday Night Football cover girl for ratings reasons, rather than, say, trying to work it out so that in-house Broadway vet Megan Hilty could do it on a break from Sean Saves The World (which is probably not as good a use of her time and talents). But again, Carrie Underwood obviously worked crazy-hard on this, and when you’re not used to a live show that demands singing AND so much choreography AND acting between it all, choosing to put yourself on a live network broadcast — in the company of performers like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti — is a brave, bold move, and just because I didn’t applaud the overall end result doesn’t mean I don’t applaud her for doing it. I absolutely do.

My overriding issue is that Fraulein Maria is all spirit. She’s charm and sass and a little insanity, all rolled into one. Either nobody bothered to help Carrie Underwood find that in the material, or it was too big a job for her in her first major role. Carrie’s Maria does not climb a tree and scrape her knee; her dress does not have a tear. She does not waltz on her way to Mass, nor whistle on the stair. (And underneath her wimple, she doesn’t have curlers in her hair, because she’s got a big ol’ braid jammed up in there.) These qualities are essential to believing in her frenzied charisma, and it wasn’t there. Julie Andrews did it immaculately, and beyond her vocals, that made her a tough act to follow. (Also, somebody went INSANE making Carrie enunciate. A little is fine, but we don’t need to hear EVERY SINGLE “T” in EVERY SINGLE WORD.)

Watching this version of the stage show, I was struck with how much livelier the movie dialogue is, and it lent Maria some of the spunk she lacked here, which would’ve helped. The comparisons have all been to Julie Andrews anyway, because her Maria is more iconic than any that appeared on stage; ergo, might as well just accept that and then do the better version of the material, or a hybrid.

Basically, it was not a very enjoyable telecast. However, I loved the ambition of what it was trying to do, and I hope NBC keeps trying to do it. It’s also why, as much as I do not enjoy Glee and haven’t for a long time (and on some levels, possibly ever), I am so glad it’s out there because, much like JK Rowling reminded kids that it’s cool to read and Tina Fey that it’s cool to be smart, this stuff emphasizes the benefits of actual god-given talent.

Okay, let’s get silly:

They stuck Carrie behind a tree and made her spin around and duck out from behind it like she was popping out to say cuckoo, and her facial expression was so farcically cheery that it did nobody any good.

And then she spent the rest of her ‘The hills are ALIVE” sequence acting more like she was afraid they were alive in a Frankenstein kind of way. There was no tangible joy; just occasional bouts of pleasantness. Then again, this outdoor set was so horrible that I don’t blame her for being unable to summon any wonder at the splendor of nature. It was more like trying very hard to summon tolerance for the experience of nature-themed air fresheners.

The first moment where Carrie actually seemed to be having fun was at the end of “My Favorite Things” where Mother Superior lets her sit on her desk and they kick their feet and have a gay old time, Flintstones-style. Carrie Underwood was actually serviceable in the scenes where she had to get emotional with her scene partners, and I think it’s because they were all giving her more to play with (even Stephen Moyer at least gave her… I don’t know, flint and some cheekbones); comparatively, in the ones where she had to drive the bus with Maria’s personality, she ran it off the road. A live audience might have given her energy to feed off of; I’m sure any Broadway performer, like say the one in this scene with her, would vouch that it’s an amazing boon.

All the nuns looked like nuns, which is great, because if they’d looked like strippers, Twitter might have exploded in a more real way.  I REALLY missed the movie line where Maria notes that she’s supposed to kiss the floor whenever she upsets one particular nun, and “lately I’ve taken to kissing the floor when I see her coming, just to save time.”

Mother Superior’s office looked nice enough, albeit ripped out of Murder By Death, which is now just making me wish Young Maggie Smith had wandered through here in a satin gown. This whole set looked like a daytime soap opera, and here I kept thinking of Wildwind on All My Children. If ONLY Old-School Pre-Drug Bust Post-Dex Dexter Michael Nader (Dimitri Marick) had played the Captain. Can we time travel?

Lest you think I would forget Franz and Frau Schmidt, here they are. Franz is very excited about his work apron.

Stephen Moyer, a.k.a. Compton Von Trapp, was… unsuccessful, and looked super short and stocky in all the suit-pants they gave him. I know he is not a giant of a man, and Captain Von Trapp would never have worn skinny jeans, but… wait, now I am doomed to be unsatisfied by never getting to see Young Christopher Plummer in skinny jeans.

He also lacked charm, and the two of them together was like watching two plastic trees try to ignite a campfire by themselves.

Even Carrie gave him some delightful side-eye, and although that was relevant and in character, I like to think it was also therapeutic. We also need to discuss how that dress is not nearly ugly enough for the line, “The poor didn’t want this one.” The poor MIGHT want that one. The poor might be annoyed that they didn’t get a crack at that one.

The Von Trapp Family Uniforms were fairly standard nautical outfits. The knee-length culottes on Friedrich and Kurt were amazing and relentless.

“I’m Friedrich, and I’M A BOY,” was the line, which is something a two-year old would say.

Kurt is not impressed. Kurt has all the feelings in this production, and here, he basically wants to punch Friedrich for making the Von Trapp Family Bros sound so lame.

“Who wears short-shorts? This telegram dude wears short-shorts.”

I went on the Sound of Music tour when I did some backpacking around Europe — I was by myself the whole time, so the ONLY photo from these cities in which I feature is one where I’m skipping through the tunnel of flowers where they staged part of “Do Re Mi” because I MADE some random person take my photo, and it is awesome — and the gazebo from “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” is closed to the public because some octogenarian lady tried to do the dance where she leapt around the benches, and fell and hurt her hip. I applaud that lady’s instinct, and HECKLE HER FOREVER for ruining it for the rest of us.  Also, I miss both the gazebo and Charmian Carr’s pink dress, but Liesl does at least read much younger in her uniform.

You know, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” already has a lot of creepy, archaic messaging about how she is too stupid and young and needs a boy to to tell her what to do. So don’t make him sing, “Totally unprepared are you to face the world of men,” while giving him rapey choreography where he advances on her, hand pre-cupped to about breast-size, while she is backed up against a tree. Even she seems terrified. If anyone wants to cut the horror-movie trailer version of this special, here is one of the lynchpins. We’re not supposed to KNOW yet that Rolfe is a whacked-out Nazi sympathizer jackhole.
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In an awkward bit of staging, they had Rolfe “carve” R + L and a heart into a tree. Obviously, it was already carved there, but the camera stayed fixed here before, during, and after, so that we could SEE it was already carved there (he did it in two laps around the tree), and all he did was highlight it. Very strange staging choice.
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Frau Schmidt is wondering why a young nun who gave all her worldly goods to the poor has such an elaborate dressing gown. Lanz of Salzburg wasn’t making sleepwear yet, y’all.
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“Check it out! The poor TOTALLY wanted this one, but I said, ‘SCREW IT, mama wants to sleep like a queen.'”
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“Nobody understands how HARD these loops are. And I DON’T like brown paper packages tied up with string. NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME AT ALL.”
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As Kurt circled his prey, he thought, “I’m the one you forgot? LET’S SEE HOW REGRET TASTES.”
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But then Friedrich screwed up and ruined Kurt’s attack plan, all because he wanted to smell Maria’s hair, and maybe steal some. This was the “Lonely Goatherd” song, and it is impossible. Even Julie Andrews had the benefit of farming some of it out to the kids, and being on film; anyone who voluntarily belts this out life is made of bravery. Carrie clearly struggled with the breath amid all the movement, but she hung in there through a relatively rocky second half of the song and finished it out and didn’t let it screw her up, and even a rocky Carrie Underwood still has a really lovely singing voice.
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This is an honest question: Might they have been able to stage this for TV so that the actors weren’t doing the theatre thing of addressing all their lines out to the crowd? It really hurt that Compton Von Trapp stood like this, ignoring everyone, THE WHOLE TIME. You can’t have chemistry with your co-stars if you’re spending all your time macking on the lighting rigs.
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It quickly went from “SAVE US, LAURA BENANTI” to “SAVE LAURA BENANTI.” Uncle Max had on a lively tie (I think Christian Borle, and their more controversial satirical Nazi numbers, would have also benefited from a live audience), and Laura Benanti, as the Baroness, looked wonderful. I miss Eleanor Parker’s more gut-punching opulence, and she was less grasping, but that’s just a difference in the material. Benanti was great, and she didn’t even have to draw on her own eyebrows. I didn’t like the shoes, at all, but at least they’re more relatable to the time period than what they had Carrie Underwood wearing in the promotional stills.

I do not believe this Maria has sewn an outfit in her life, much less made ones with this much HAPPENING. Also, this is the beginning of her dressing like a milkmaid, also in clothes allegedly of her own design. I guess if she grew up on the mountain, maybe that’s what she figured she should wear. Julie Andrews at least was costumed with some sense of being older than the kids; Carrie Underwood looks like the adopted eighth older sibling, which I guess makes her this production’s Soon-Yi Previn.

I just wanted to share Laura Benanti’s awesome expression of, “Oh, isn’t all this adorable, except BORING.”
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She also gave SUBLIME bitchface to Maria while holding her edelweiss.
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And then we got the dullest party ever thrown in all of Austria, featuring about eight people being forced to orbit a giant fountain, because they didn’t/couldn’t bother with a ballroom set. In real life someone would’ve banged up against the steps of the fountain and been incapacitated.
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Soap fans: Michael Park (As The World Turns) showed up to play. He only had two lines, as one of Georg’s pro-Austria friends, but he looked very dapper. And the fact that he’s a silver fox now makes me feel terribly old.
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Maria went all-out on her sleeves for her Fancy-Dress Governess outfit. It is probably hard to dance The Ländler with those things smacking around everywhere. Dear producers: Fraulein Maria and Anne Shirley did not have the same sleeve preferences.
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I needed to show you this, because Kurt stood there on the stairs doing partial imitations of every dance move, as if trying to commit it to memory — exactly the way Kurt probably would have, and an awesome little bit of background stage business. Watch for his new dance video, Kurt Ländlers You A Hand.
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I don’t buy that she’d have worn black, and I REALLY don’t buy that she’d have a quasi-peplum gown. The Baroness would’ve va-va-voomed it up, to be the gleaming center of attention, not looked like a widow being introduced back into society. (Check out this black-and-white from an old production. It feels so much more right.) I also don’t care for Brigitta being the one who tells Maria that she and her father are in love; the Baroness pushing her out the door with it is so much more delightful, and isn’t that psychological manipulation half the fun of the part, and also the whole reason we see the Baroness — as we did here — notice Maria and Von Trapp dancing together so warmly? What’s the point of having her notice, if she’s not the one who does anything about it? She needs to REVENGE that fraulein and cross out her face with a red WWII-era Sharpie.
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I THINK Michael Park’s date stepped on the Baroness’s train here, which is why she picked it up. She recovered gracefully; sadly, an impromptu scandal with a torn skirt and some saucy leg was not to be. The Von Trapp children wish to say goodnight to you.
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Kurt’s eyebrow is just DARING you to say something about his and Friedrich’s skorts.

I have never understood why the Captain was so vehemently against them singing in public at the Festival, when they’d already done it at his party, to great acclaim and to his own delight. Be consistent, Georg. Take out your irritation on some Nazi flags and let your children sing about tasting their first Champagne. AND THEN GIVE THEM SOME. The Anschluss is coming, Captain. EVERYONE should be drinking while they can.

 

Okay: Audra McDonald singing “Climb Every Mountain was worth the price of admission. It’s a beautiful song that is my least favorite part of the movie, because I am unmoved by the delivery. I got goosebumps watching this the first time, and when I went back to get grabs, I opted to watch it again instead of skipping through it, and I actually got misty. She was WONDERFUL, and look at Underwood: Those are real tears.

I tease. I think those are genuine tears, and I think it’s because she couldn’t freaking HELP IT, because it’s really easy to get into the moment when Audra McDonald is delivering an immaculate Get-A-Grip Song.

Franz is like, “I don’t approve of blindfolds outside the bedroom.”
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Uncle Max REALLY likes red ties with loud patterns on them. He also loves a pin-stripe. He also loves not standing up to Nazis, which I think is casting unfair aspersions on pin-stripes and loud ties.
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Friedrich is glaring off camera, thinking, “SHE gets to wear big-boy pants and I’M STUCK IN A UNIFORM SKORT?”
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Compton Von Trapp is wearing a suit as green as the hills that are alive. It’s fine. But they’re all moping about Maria, and Kurt is also brimming with feelings about his over-the-knee socks, which he feels are terribly Cher Horowitz in a way that he’s not ready for until he’s older, and he just HATES that nobody is considering his needs.
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I don’t have much more to add than that, except that these are some VERY sincere pleats.

Compton Von Trapp, stop standing like that. Your house is not a ship that’s rocking, and if it were, I would still come a-knocking to tell you that you look ridiculous.
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This is where Compton Von Trapp gets all angry about Germany — understandably, as it was full of douchewads back then — and then dumps the Baroness because he’s not into the same kind of appeasement that she is. Jessica and I both lamented that “THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE ANY BARONESS” isn’t a line in the stage version, because when Plummer intones it at Julie Andrews by the gazebo, it sounds like he’s having the Baroness killed and disposed of hastily. But he definitely can’t marry her, because he’s in love with the baker’s daughter. Peeta Mellark WISHES he’d had this outfit.

They are not rocking down to electric avenue. Also, the producers replaced “An Ordinary Couple” with the song written for the movie, “Something Good.” If they were going to cross streams like that, you’d think they’d have made other judicious choices as well, no? Indeed: NO. And then the wedding happens, and the Von Trapp girls walk down the aisle in getups that I can only assume Maria made herself from napkins.
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They look like Reign crossed with Semi-Homemade By Sandra Lee. Her Pre-Anschluss Austria tablescape is a marvel.
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And yet she beams. Marta, sweetheart, you are a better actress than anyone knew. That may ALSO be true of Underwood, who did not vomit when she got a load of her costume, although she came close:
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I realize they needed a dress that would be easy to change into, but let’s feast our eyes on what Julie Andrews got to wear. This feels like a discount-bin mash-up of that dress and Kate Middleton’s.

 

You can sort of see the crinkled wig tape in the above photo; it was more noticeable in motion somehow.

And then they put a crown made of old lollipop sticks around her head, because Sister Margaretta has bad hearing and thought the song went, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; debris from old candies that look like hot shitten.”

And over THAT they plonk some Frankly Fake flowers and make her walk down the aisle in a dress that legitimately looks like it is made of old shoulderpads and was sewn on a fit model who had marbles glued to her breasts.

Jessica pointed out that this Church set looks like the one from Passions where Ivy Crane drove her car through the wall to stop Ethan’s wedding to Theresa. I wish Ivy Crane had crashed this wedding. This entire production could have used more Passions, especially Precious the Helpful Medically Certified Orangutan, or the times Julian and Rebecca dressed up for elaborate sex games, or that time he was castrated and then re-penised incorrectly so that if he got excited it would KILL HIM. And you KNOW Compton Von Trapp has a Shed of Secrets. The Baroness is probably dying in there right now.

Anyway, the wedding happens:

“Oh, hey, dudes, you didn’t happen to bring any shnitzel or strudel up the aisle with you…? No? Look, can someone do a church leader a solid and ferry up some snacks before they close this thing again?”

The Nazi skull-cracker ALSO likes loud ties. I think The American Association Of Loud Ties should sue for slander.

Friedrich would like to get up and punch that Nazi in the throat, but his joints are now frozen in that kneeling position and it will take twenty minutes to get upright again. And Kurt is too busy having feelings about his sweatervest and the continued presence of knee socks that are stunting the growth of his manly leg hair.

They give Underwood a lid, at least, for her return from her honeymoon, and Liesl’s dress is REALLY cute on her.

Compton Von Trapp would rather stand over here and spread ‘em and make people talk to his back.

But Maria’s outfit…

… no. It’s MATURE, finally, but it’s also so immensely unflattering, much like the hair they have glued to her head.

Rolfe is still wearing his tiny pants, this time with a lot more cranky pro-Nazi ranting.

More daytime faces, I think: I could swear that is John Bolger, (Another World, OLTL, GH) popping by to play An Even Bigger Nazi Than The Other Dude Who Was Just Here, and Compton Von Trapp tries to give him some lip. The Comp’n does look nice in what you can’t really tell is a forest green vest.

And the family looks fetching in its matching performance ensembles, one of which was thoughtfully ordered in Maria’s size, and which they have donned despite saying that they’re singing in the Festival “on Friday.” And then they tromp out of the house to work their shifts at their tourist-trap novelty family restaurant, Jam and Bread.

Just kidding, they roll right into the song contest, which is staged in somebody’s old barn.

“Sorry, we were under the impression that this was a music festival, not Open Mic Night at the Salzburg Country Hoedown.”

And then things went mental in a CAPSY way:

Some questions don’t have answers. Let’s just look at that again, also in case someday that Twitter thing stops working.

You can flap their head-wings by pulling on their mic cords.

And THIS woman is supposed to be the one from the movie who wins THIRD prize, and comes out and can’t stop bowing awkwardly with Max. I LOVE that frumpy, beaming woman. THEY SEXPOTTED HER.

There is also an implication missing from the movie that Max got hauled off by the Nazis. I guarantee you the Baroness did not bail him out, and not just because she might be trapped under something heavy in Compton Von Trapp’s Hate Shed.

The staging of this is made even more awkward by the fact that earlier, two nuns pass by with some Nazis and STARE RIGHT AT THE VON TRAPPS. Very subtle, ladies. This eviller Rolfe ends up being a hero — he lets them get away — whereas the whinier Rolfe from the movie blows the whistle. LITERALLY, actually, which is a nifty piece of full-circle that I just noticed: The Captain, who used to make people respond to whistle calls, almost got busted by one. Snap, filmmakers. HOWEVER.

I reject this ending with my entire being. Don’t take the moxie out of my nuns, bitches.

And then they all tromp over this very unimposing fake hillside, straight to freedom.

I mean, prioritize, y’all. Maybe wear boots and don’t bring your musical instrument, unless they are planning to stuff Gretl in there when her legs get too tired.

And that was that: A totally unengrossing rendition of a classic, with only one moment that struck an emotional chord; in fact, most of the conflict felt unearned, as did the love story. Despite her lackluster acting, I did applaud Carrie Underwood’s beautiful voice — the theatre training she clearly did with it paid off in context better than in the promos, although in the end, she still felt very much like a girl playing a Broadway actress playing Maria. It was a lot to bite off for a first-time actress, though, and I respect the guts she displayed. I think Stephen Moyer might wake up with a little more of a migraine.

It’s tough to grade this the way we normally would, because it’s The Sound of Music, and LOVE BEAT THE NAZIS, and whatnot. I will say this:

Fuggery: 8 out of 10. Maria looked ridiculous most of the way through, but THE HEADGEAR MY GOD THE HEADGEAR. It’s like the entire wedding scene happened after someone mistook the hot glue gun for nasal spray and got a good, hard whiff.