Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Live from New York: 'The Sound of Music'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Live from New York: 'The Sound of Music'

Article excerpt

The trills will be live with "The Sound of Music."

On Thursday night, NBC will attempt quite a stunt, returning viewers to the early days of television with a three-hour telecast of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic -- the first full-scale musical mounted by a broadcast network for live TV in more than 50 years.

If you're expecting, though, to essentially see a replay of the beloved Oscar-winning 1965 movie that starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, scratch that thought.

"It's not a remake of the film," says Laura Benanti, the Tony Award-winning actress who grew up in Kinnelon and plays the elegant Baroness Elsa Schraeder in the production. "It is sort of a hybrid between a Broadway show and a television [movie]. And it will be a live televised version of the stage production."

Specifically, "The Sound of Music Live!" -- which stars Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer -- is based on the original 1959 Broadway stage version, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Mary Martin originated the role of Maria Rainer, the postulant- turned-nanny-turned-wife of Capt. Georg von Trapp and stepmother to his seven children.

That production, which ran until 1963, boasted two songs that did not make it into the 1965 film -- "No Way to Stop It" (on which Elsa joins the Captain and their buddy, Max Detweiler) and "How Can Love Survive?" (Elsa and Max).

Both songs have been restored for Thursday's telecast -- and the fact that Benanti's character happens to sing those two songs might take away some of the sting for fans who think Benanti, 34, would still make a fine Maria, which she played in a 1999 "Sound of Music" revival on Broadway, when she was just 19 and not long out of Kinnelon High School. Richard Chamberlain, Captain von Trapp in that production, was 65 at the time.

Age is a strange thing in show business -- Martin was just weeks shy of her 46th birthday when she started playing Maria on Broadway, and at 30, Underwood is just a few years younger than Benanti -- but such vagaries are clearly not something Benanti cares to dwell on. In a recent conversation, she preferred to chat about her new album, "In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention," and this telecast.

Benanti thinks that by broadening the character of the wealthy but not particularly maternal Elsa -- who gets engaged to the captain before either of them realizes he's in love with Maria -- executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan introduce more romantic and dramatic tension into the story.

"I think that the relationship between the Captain and Maria is more interesting when there's a threat," Benanti says. "The Captain and Elsa seem happy at first. They have a real grown-up relationship. So, I think expanding the character of Elsa, in the way that the stage play did, adds to it. …

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