Well, no one fell down during last night's live broadcast of The Sound of Music Live—unless you count that tumble Rolf and Liesl took during "Sixteen Going on Seventeen"—but it's hard to say the production was perfect. There were, however, some bright spots. Let's assess the good and the bad.
The Broadway Stars: There's a reason why these folks do this for a living. The screen lit up when Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, and Christian Borle were on. Why? Because these folks do this—you know, live musical theater—for a living, and it showed. McDonald was tender and soulful, even opposite Carrie Underwood at her most wooden. Benanti made you hope beyond hope that Captain von Trapp would maybe end up with the Baroness instead. Borle played up Max's ultimate sacrifice in those final scenes, while maintaining his dandy veneer.
The Kids: Child actors are always dangerous. They have the potential to be majorly obnoxious in that look-at-me, jazz-hands way. But these kids were not that. Special props go to Ariane Rinehart, who was lovely as Liesl.
Carrie Underwood, Singing Edition: Underwood did away with most of her country twang to sing versions of the classic songs. Sure, her tones weren't as clear as Julie Andrews'—but whose are? Her renditions were respectful.
Stephen Moyer: Vampire Bill wasn't particularly terrible as the Captain, but it was a little hard to get worked up about him either way. Plus, his "Edleweiss" was distinctly underwhelming.
Carrie Underwood, Acting Edition: Carrie Underwood is not an actress -- literally, her only credits to this point had been one episode of How I Met Your Mother and the movie Soul Surger -- and this gave her no reason to quit her day job. Alongside someone like McDonald, Underwood looked like she was visiting from Nashville dinner theater. It's not really her fault, but it also wasn't good.
The Costumes: Underwood is an attractive woman who normally looks good in clothes. Therefore, it is almost remarkable how unflattering the costumes were. At different points in the show, she looked like a barmaid and a stewardess.
The Silence: Doing a filmed live performance with no live audience yields many awkward moments. There are natural applause breaks in the rhythm of live theater, and when there is instead silence, something feels amiss. Lines that should be played for laughs are played to no one, and without incidental music, scenes were scored by a strange hum.
The Lighting, Staging, Etc.: Perhaps the biggest flaw in the production was, well, the production. Both the actors and the camera moved too much, attempting to make the show seem more cinematic, when it would have worked better if treated simply like a stage play. The sets didn't really help much either. Why, for instance, was there a balustrade in front of scenes in the von Trapps' courtyard that sometimes wormed its way into shots for no particular reason? Let's not even discussion how bluntly ostentatious the Nazi banners were in the concert scene.
At times, the production was dimly or strangely lit, leaving some scenes with a yellow glow. In one particularly frustrating incident McDonald was left in the dark while singing some of her showstopper "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
At least Audra sounded great.