Sounds of Music but No Story

We were excited to view the live remake of the Broadway version of The Sound of Music as Ed and I only know the 1965 movie, however, we know it really well. The videos of our first tour through Salzburg in 1992 includes visiting the gardens and gazebo from the movie with me in Maria (Julie Andrews) poses. Ed even spliced in clips from the movie so our young daughters would recognize where their parents were in those same movie scene locations.

Ed and I were in Salzburg again in 2008 and took the “Sound of Music” tour and loved it, especially singing all the songs on the bus. The Austrian locals are amused by tourists, who are so in love with the movie and songs, as they feel the true story is more interesting. But the Hollywood version has helped fund a lot of estate repairs and garden maintenance in the past four decades, so it’s an extra layer of story for locals and movie fans to discuss.

This Thursday was a live TV event so we made movie-night-plans and that’s why we watched all the way to the end. If we were alone and at home Ed and I would have given up after the first, or second, commercial break. But our niece Kathy, and her children (ages 8 & 10) had planned for this special evening with pillows and popcorn, all week. Kathy has theatrical training and is a professional singer, Ed is a Carrie Underwood fan, and I was hoping for some story flavor relating to the Maria Von Trapp memoir I’d read years ago.

We were all disappointed.

It’s sad if this epic fail is hung on the talent of the actors. That’s wrong because they were doing their best to live up to legendary heroes. It’s the directors, and writers, and objectives of the producers (maybe ad dollars to cover the $9 million cost?) that need to be questioned as to how a story this strong, and an amazing cast, would present three hours of lame and confused entertainment.

It’s good that I have no memories of the original Broadway musical but I’ll now have nightmares about bobbing heads under the bed singing about the goat-herd romance. There was no relationship building, no romance, and no story value to the historical events.  Even worse, the passion and purpose for living that was threatened with The Third Reich regime was lost in bad acting and awkward scene staging.

Kathy’s children were wide awake and totally confused by the end of the show. Fortunately, the Hollywood movie version will answer most of their questions.

As I have edelweiss both preserved in glass and in paintings on my walls, I was not pleased with the fake daisy-like flowers Carrie clutched at one point.

The irony of all this is today I was communicating with Kristina McMorris – bestselling author of Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and most recently The Pieces We Keep to create  a workshop about weaving historical and factual character details into your story in fresh, succinct ways to maintain pacing – and her novels are framed by WWII.

Our history includes greater horrors than wars and it can be silly when those stories are portrayed through a romance with song and dance. Maybe Carrie Underwood fans will be curious enough now to learn some history and why the Von Trapp Family story was worthy of being “remade.” Maybe they’ll be engaged in news worthy events to suddenly hear the name Nelson Mandela.

There’s a reason for everything, and I always try to put a positive spin on the hypocrisy of spectacles I observe.

3 thoughts on “Sounds of Music but No Story

  1. I’m soooo glad you are talking about this. I’ve been wanting to kvetch myself. I watched it knowing it would not be the movie because it was a live performance of a stage play. Unfortunately, I was disappointed as well. Of course, filming a live stage play/musical is completely different than creating a film based on the novel and musical (1965 version). Not to mention it is near impossible to compete with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber.

    I have seen the Broadway Musical a couple of times and I do enjoy it. But it is VERY different from the film. First more singing and less lines, as well as the compact environment of set pieces that require some crazy staging. In all of that I think the filming of the stage play was very good and even better than I expected. This same director has filmed Chicago and Annie to great acclaim. Unfortunately, the two leads this time just didn’t get it.

    Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer truly had no idea how to play the roles. While Carrie’s voice was strong and clear, there was no nuance to her singing and definitely no acting. I know she can pull this off because she is a great country singer who, in concert, does give a nuanced performance to heartbreak. But she didn’t seem to connect with the words or the ideas in this situation. Or maybe all the staging interfered with her ability to delivery the songs with any nuance. As for Moyer, he was all stiffness and anger with no hint of softness or humor. The two of them together made it completely unbelievable they could fall in love.

    The shining star was the woman who played Elsa. I even liked her better than the Elsa in the 1965 version. I suspect she is a regular Broadway actress. You could see it in the way she sang, acted, and moved. Unfortunately, she was so good I was almost rooting for her to marry the Captain. (Not good for the story)

    I understand NBC wanting to take advantage of the popularity of these two young people, and wanting to bring musicals to a new generation. However IMO it was a mistake. It would have been better if they had filmed the actual Broadway cast instead. At least the story would have held together better. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


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