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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hills Are Alive, Y'All!

Written by Kyle Slagley

I’ve been sitting on this topic for a couple weeks, and I confess my reactions are no less conflicted than they were when I heard the news for the first time. On November 30, it was announced that Carrie Underwood would star as Maria Von Trapp in a live NBC broadcast of The Sound of Music, scheduled to air sometime in 2013.

Go ahead and take a minute to process that. I’ll wait.

That’s right, the Oklahoma-bred country music princess will be playing the prim and proper Austrian nun-turned-governess-turned-wife and I for one was left wondering who the heck made that casting decision.

About half of your theatre buffs will say Maria Von Trapp is the most loved nanny in all of musical theatre; the other half will say that honour goes to Mary Poppins. Both characters were immortalized in the 1960s when Julie Andrews played them on the silver screen – Mary Poppins in 1964 and Maria Von Trapp in 1965.

It therefore goes without saying that the shoes Carrie Underwood has to fill are about as large as the interior of Mary Poppins’s handbag. In a circle of friends full of movie buffs, trained opera singers, and general theatre snobs, I’m the odd one out that says Carrie could do a decent job. Notice how I said “could.”

In order to succeed in this role and leave the dissenters behind her, Carrie has to walk into it and keep repeating two simple things: Maria Von Trapp is not Carrie Underwood, and Carrie Underwood is not Julie Andrews. That may sound like some existential “method actor” concept, but I assure you it’s not.

Let me explain. Maria Von Trapp is not from Oklahoma and certainly isn’t going to “take a Louisville Slugger to both headlights” of a Nazi Mercedes Benz. Carrie is going to have to leave all of her down-home American girl mannerisms at home; hence, Maria is not Carrie.

Secondly, you don’t find stars like Julie Andrews anymore. For 60 years, she’s been classy, charming, and with her four-octave vocal range at age 77, still astoundingly talented. Carrie has got to realize that if she goes into this role trying to be Julie, she’s setting herself up for failure. If she can harness that country-girl determination, take the role by the Do-Re-Mi, and make it her own, then there’s a very real chance for her to shine in her own right.

It’s a fine line, to be sure, but Carrie showcased her ability to adapt to different styles when she won Season Four of American Idol back in 2005. Moreover, her rendition of the title song “Sound of Music” on CBS’s Movies Rock! broadcast in 2007 was by no means bad.

Carrie’s success may lie heavily on how well she clicks with whomever is chosen to play Captain Von Trapp, as even the most experienced stage veterans know that chemistry between actors is crucial to a show’s success. Who will be chosen? Hugh Jackman? Liev Schrieber? A yet-to-be-discovered media blogger?

Oh well, a guy can dream…

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