I suspect that if an actor was asked about their career, they would not want to talk about just one role. But that doesn’t mean that the audience feels the same way.
Canadian actor Christopher Plummerdied yesterday. He was one of those actors who could never be typecast, the number of characters he played over 70ish years is as long as my arm. For most of us, we know him for one film: The Sound of Music.
Playing opposite Julie Andrews, his Georg von Trapp was a man held back by grief, initially unable to open up to his children. At the time, he was in his mid 30’s, aged up to play a character a decade his senior. Though some might say the movie is sappy and sentimental (as Plummer himself put it), it is charming and thoroughly entertaining. It is no wonder that more than five decades later, it is a beloved classic that has been watched and memorized by generations of fans.
The best writers have the ability to take a basic narrative with basic characters and elevate those elements into a story that the audience or reader is able to hook into easily.
The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway in 1959. It is based on the true story of Maria von Trapp, a young woman in Austria who takes a job as a governess before deciding if she will join the nunnery that she has called home. As she turns the hearts of the children under her care, she also turns the heart of their widower father. World War II is on the horizon and the family must make a choice. Stay and support the Nazis or leave with only the clothes on their backs. In the end, they escape with almost nothing except with the knowledge that they are not silently standing by and approving of the new regime.
Recently, LaGuardia High School (otherwise known as the real life New York City High School that Fame is based on) decided to put on a production of The Sound of Music. During the rehearsal process, school administrators decided to downplay the historical facts of play by removing the swastikas from the production.
While I understand where the administrators were coming from, I disagree with their decision. Rodgers and Hammerstein did not just write love stories. Their stories are about issues that we as a society have to deal with. In Sound of Music, the issue is do you follow your conscious and leave everything/everyone that you know and love or do you silently sit back while something that you disagree with continues on?
From my perspective, The Sound of Music is the perfect musical to put on in this political climate. Not just because it is one of the greatest musicals of all time, but it reminds all of us of the power of standing up for what is right, even when no one else is.
The ability to laugh in the face of uncertainty or fear is one of best coping mechanisms that human beings have.
Especially when it comes to politics.
Randy Rainbow released his latest video earlier today. Entitled “Trump’s Favorite Things! – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody”, he uses the song and the mood from “My Favorite Things” from the The Sound of Music as a backdrop for the video.
Anyone who knows my blog knows that I adore Randy Rainbow. Every time that he releases a new video, it makes my day. I saw him perform live in August.
The man is brilliant, the man is funny and most of all, his videos alleviate the stress that goes hand in hand with state of American politics these days.
In light of the Senate race in Alabama tomorrow and the fact Roy Moore, an accused child rapist could win the Senate seat, Randy Rainbow has put out a new video. Appropriately and hilariously adapted from the song “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” from The Sound Of Music, the song points how skin crawling it is that a man in his thirties would want to date underage teenage girls.
I would hope that in light of the multiple accusations that have been released, that the Alabama voters would vote with their heads. But hope often only springs eternal, especially in our current political climate.
Parenthood, especially single parenthood is never easy.
In the 1958 movie, Houseboat, Tom (Cary Grant) is a single father doing his best to raise his children after the death of his wife. Cinzia (Sophia Loren) has left the comfortable life and her overprotective father for a life of freedom and independence. She agrees to work for Tom, but as expected, things go, well not as expected.
The narrative is almost like The Sound Of Music, but downgraded. Despite the notable names of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, the film is merely ok. The only thing that stands out in regards to Houseboat is the off-screen drama. Cary Grant was married at the time to Betsy Drake (who wrote the original screenplay and hoped to star opposite her husband). Infatuated with his co-star and having an affair with her, Grant had the screenplay altered, taking the screenwriting credit away from his wife and cast Loren instead of Drake in hopes of continuing the affair. While there was a happy ending on-screen, the ending off-screen was different. Loren returned to Italy and to the man who would become her husband, Carlo Ponti.
This past Thursday, NBC aired a live telecast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical The Sound Of Music.
Any national or Broadway revival of this musical will obviously be compared to the original production from the 1950’s with Mary Martin in the lead role and the iconic 1965 movie.
Carrie Underwood as Maria was an interesting choice by the producers. Yes, the woman can sing. One does not win American Idol and sell as many albums as she has without the ability to sing as well as she does. However, singing your own songs on a concert stage or acting in a music video which will ultimately be less than five minutes long is very different than playing one of the most iconic characters in musical theater. Did she know her lines? Yes. But there was little emotion behind those lines.
And now to Stephen Moyer. A great actor who is incredibly sexy on True Blood. And so wrong for Captain Von Trapp.
He is age appropriate and is as much as a name as Carrie Underwood. I don’t expect him to hit the high notes that Maria hits, but I found him to be stiff and his singing to be simply underwhelming. The Captain is emotionally closed off and stiff at the beginning of the story, but that is his character. Even when he began to open himself up to his children and become the father they needed, Moyer just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself wishing that Christopher Plummer was still young enough to play this part again.
The upshot to this production was the decision to hire Broadway veterans to fill out the adult supporting roles. Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess), Laura Benanti (Elsa Schrader) and Christian Borle (Max Detweiler). Benati played Maria in the last revival, perhaps she might have imparted some advice to Underwood.
I applaud NBC for this undertaking, a live televised production of one of the most beloved musicals is not an easy thing to pull off. But next time, if there is a next time, I would recommend choose actors who actually have musical theater credentials and not just pop stars and TV actors who can sing.
Words, words, words... well said Hamlet! A little blog to go off on tangents within the worlds of history and literature that interest me. From the Tudors to Tom Hardy's Tess, or from the Wars of the Roses to Wuthering Heights, feel free to browse through my musings to pick up extra ideas and points for discussion!