Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review: Sound of Music, Live! with Carrie Underwood – 2013

I’ve been so looking forward to this review! In my enthusiasm, I’ll probably be rambling a little more than usual. ;-)

First off, to clarify. As you probably already know, the producers of this film have emphatically stated that it is not a remake of the classic movie, but a filmed version of the original stage play. Also, the 60’s film version has been part of my own family for longer than I have, so please don’t construe anything I say–regarding casting, for instance–as being a criticism of that version. All right, that proviso out of the way, we will now proceed. 

To begin with, while visiting Idaho a couple years ago, I was given the opportunity to see Sound of Music in person performed on stage. Some cousins invited me to go with them and at first–while being very interested–I was also a little skeptical. I knew, of course, that The Sound of Music was originally a play, but how in the world could they make it work? How could they possibly bring across the grandeur of the mountains and the sweep of the story on a stage? 

Suffice to say, that was before going. When we left I was walking on air. After that I’m afraid my family heard rather a lot about it–indeed, I believe they began to feel themselves over-informed. And when I heard this was coming out, I frankly tried not to think about it–lest expectation ruin delight.

But now we’ll try to get down to some details. There were a few differences from what I’d seen before and following are the fruits of my research.

Changes in Summary 

In addition to the songs–and placement of the songs–that the 1959 play and 1965 film had in common, the original 1959 stage production had the following: 

~ My Favorite Things (Maria and the Mother Abbess) – before Maria leaves the Abbey
~ The Lonely Goatherd (Maria and the children) – during thunderstorm 
~ The Lonely Goatherd: Reprise (Gretl) – skipped (I believe) in later versions 
~ How Can Love Survive (Baroness and Max) – skipped in the 1965 film 
~ No Way to Stop It (Baroness, Max, and the Captain) – skipped in the 1965 film 
~ An Ordinary Couple (the Captain and Maria) – replaced in the 1965 film (see below) 
~ Do-Re-Mi: Reprise (at concert) – same place in the '65 film, but often replaced by The Lonely Goatherd in current stage-productions (including the one I saw) 

Further differences made from the play in the 1965 film: 
~ I Have Confidence (Maria) – written by Saul Chaplin for the film 
~ My Favorite Things (Maria) – shifted to thunderstorm scene instead of The Goatherd 
~ The Lonely Goatherd (Maria and children) – shifted to puppet show 
~ Edelweiss (the Captain and Leisl) – inserted after puppet show 
~ Something Good (the Captain and Maria) – written by Richard Rodgers for the film replacing An Ordinary Couple and now often used in stage productions

The current 2013 televised stage production: 
~ Follows songs and original 1959 placement with the exception of… 
~ Something Good instead of An Ordinary Couple – (per above note) 

The script was pretty much what I remembered from the play I’d seen, so I assume it’s the original.


Every scene is beautiful, and throughout each there is a freshness and energy. The overall effect is a delightful simplicity and vitality, bringing new verve to the story. Everyone seemed to throw themselves into their part–having fun and getting more relaxed as it went on. As a note, there are only two things I don’t like in the entire movie. With Rolf and Leisl’s scene, the dancing part and choreography are fine, but the ending went a bit further than I like–though due to lyrics it’s a scene/song we always skip anyway (along with Something Good). Other than that, the only thing I don’t particularly like is Maria’s wedding dress. 


Minor characters – The nuns, the servants, the Captain’s local friends and enemies, etc. are all good. Rolf in particular is very well done and I especially like how his character development works out.

The Mother Abbess – Is phenomenal. Keen and compelling–tough and yet full of love for those under her charge–she’s amazing. Regarding her singing tone (I’m going to be saying this at least three times over), but it’s gorgeous: smooth, soaring, rich, and clear.

The Baroness – Lovely and elegant, light, polished, and sophisticated, expressive yet calmly controlled–she’s perfect in the part. And she has an absolutely incredible voice! (To be quite honest, her two songs were the ones I originally had a tendency to go on about–and that was before seeing this.)

Max – The above picture just about says it all, but he’s absolutely–positively–perfect. And, like I said, the songs he gets to sing in are two of my favorites.

The Children – Are all seven very good. (I would have liked to have done each one separately here, but that would have been a bit much. There’s a little more below.) 

And now…

Maria – I may have been influenced by having never seen/heard her before, but first and foremost, I will simply state that I really, really liked her. 

~ First: her singing. Having now seen it (three!) times and listened to the soundtrack a zillion (well, maybe twenty) times–I have now made up my mind. She does “belt” a word very occasionally, which at first I wasn’t sure about, but now really like. It has an “improvising-on-the-spot” feel that brings a freshness to the words. I would not describe her voice as “piquant”. At first I thought it would have a childlike tone, but I quickly found not. It can be rich and throaty then suddenly clear and soaring; flexible and expressive with a full range.

~ Second: fitting the part. Age-wise, I think she was perfect–older than Leisl, but much younger than the Captain. Occasionally, you can tell she doesn’t have a lot of acting experience, but I think that actually gives a girlish, ingenuous feel to the part. She sincerely brings across a full range of emotions–creating a transparent, radiant, and artless Maria.

The Captain – Is excellent. He’s intense–grim and severe–but when Maria comes into his life, he begins to glow. I particularly liked how they brought out his relationship with the children. After he opens up to them again–talking with them, being there for them, and giving each one of them what they needed; listening to Brigitta, imparting confidence to Frederic…holding Leisl the way she needed to be held (the scene at the Abbey gets me every time).

The Captain and Maria Together – Were very good: from anger and frustration in the confrontational scenes–to the undercurrents in the dance–and the hesitancy and perplexity when she comes back from the Abbey–all the way through to her helping him in making a big life decision (leaving Austria). The proposal is utterly sweet and satisfying, now ranking as one of my favorites. :-)

The Sets and Colors – Are splendiferous. The sets are amazing–both interiors and exteriors while the colors are unified and vivid. I love the color scheme they went with: greens, fresh blues, corals, mauve, and rose. And–in case it’s not already obvious–the wardrobes are delightful.

This bedroom is–well, let’s just say I like it. :-)


With the use of the original songs and dialogue there are strongly Christian and political tones to the story and some interesting questions are raised. ~ What is it to live by our convictions? Where and what is the line–in both private life and public–beyond which there can be no compromise? What is it to find what you have been called to? The place you have been called to?

We must not live individualistically, but we do live as individually created people. Individual people tied to others. Will we keep our heads low, going with the current flow–or will we take a stand? Taking a stand will almost inevitably bring change–if not at large (the way we would like)–at the very least change for us, the one taking the stand. And that can be scary. But if we don’t stand for what we believe, we’ll be betraying those connected to us. 

Then there’s loyalty. What is loyalty–really? It’s not loyalty if it doesn’t come through when the going gets tough. Where do our loyalties lie? At root, tied to our real convictions, we will always live by them. Are we the center of the universe?

Captain von Trapp sings his love for his country–even when that country has turned her back on him. His children love and trust him–even when he isn’t there for everything they need.

Stepping out to live by what we know to be right, we will always come to a place where we realize our own weakness. We are not sufficient for these things. But as the Abbess ultimately says, “Haven’t you read? ‘I shall lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. …You will have help, ‘For ye shall go forth with joy and be led forth with peace, and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing.’” God is our final peace; and His pledged word is firm and sure, holding us fast even when we can’t see it.

Closing Thoughts

The story is sweeping, but it has an everyday-ish-ness to it–a freshness and immediacy. Like I said, I’ve been familiar with the story (and liked it) for as long as I can remember, but until now have never owned it as a big personal favorite. This did it. It’s tingly–a serious story told joyfully–creating the satisfaction and the longing of all good story.


  1. I really should see this. My mom really enjoyed this too, and I keep reading positive reviews of it. When I was a kid, the movie version was the only movie we had, so I grew up feeling like the characters were almost friends of mine. I'd like to see a new version, a new take on the story and characters.

    1. I think it's a lot of fun. :-) A fresh/original/new take on the story. And it's a good family watch. Let me know if you see it!

  2. Heidi, just to say that I added your name to the list of nominees for the Beautiful Blogger award. Further details are on my blog :)

  3. Oooh just getting round to commenting on this! :D
    Whereee can we see this?!

    1. Evie,
      Mmmmm.... It was televised in the US and then our library got it on DVD (which is how we first saw it) before we purchased it on Amazon. If Amazon carries it for your region, I'm sure you could request the library to purchase it. I'm not sure if it's available on YouTube.... I do hope you can see it soon! :)

    2. Ah! I will check it out! :D

  4. Well, when this first came out I think everyone was skeptical (including me), but you have changed my mind. I now want to see it!!!

    I believe I have heard of Audra McDonald (she portrays Mother Abbess, doesn't she?). I'd love to hear her!

    Ooh, does Christian Borle play Max? That would be wonderful! I've seen him as Captain Hook in a Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher, and I was very impressed.

    I LOVE Carrie Underwood's voice! (Except, I would have to say, occasional moments when she does have a tendency to belt.) Have you heard her new single Something in the Water? It is wonderful (a Christian melody with an awesome section of background vocals singing "Amazing Grace" toward the end).

    Anyway great review! As I said I am now anxious to see it!!!

    1. Arwen Undomiel,
      Thank you! And yes, I wasn't sure what to expect before seeing it the first time either, but it's now one of my absolute favorites. Somehow, it made the entire story more "real" to me.

      From talking with others, I think you definitely have to keep in mind that it's a filmed version of the play,in which case I maintain it's all around amazing. :)

      I haven't heard a lot of Carrie Underwood, but I really like her in here. She does (occasionally) belt a word, but I actually didn't end up minding it too much. In general, I think it actually almost created more of a fresh, impromptu feel.

      So I do hope you can see it soon! And oh, yes...."Uncle" Max is amazing. :)


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