Review: The Sound of Music Live (The Show Must Go On)

Despite great work from supporting players like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti, The Sound of Music Live isn’t a great advert for The Show Must Go On

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her”

In some ways, turning to the series of live TV musicals to continue The Show Must Go On now that Andrew Lloyd Webber has exhausted the content he is willing to give for free, for weekends at a time. The problem is, its opening salvo – The Sound of Music Live from 2013 – really isn’t a good example of the form. 

Directed by Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller, it has all the requisite component parts and as a piece of live entertainment, it is all very competently done. There’s an impressively capacious set, slick camerawork and a well-drilled ensemble who barely put a foot wrong throughout the 2 hours plus of the show.

The problem, and it is a massive one, is in casting singer Carrie Underwood as Maria, whose lack of acting experience is cruelly exposed in practically every frame, and who shares zero chemistry with Stephen Moyer’s Captain. The pair are a black hole at the heart of this broadcast, sucking life and enjoyment from the whole thing.

The only joy comes from the flickers of light in the supporting cast, where genuine musical theatre actors are allowed to show how it’s done. Audra McDonald’s superlative soprano makes a thrilling Mother Abbess, Laura Benanti has great fun as Elsa (hints of her Melania in there?!) and Christian Borle is good value for money as Max. But overall, this is not a strong example of how musical theatre can be done live on TV.

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