Tag Archives: Stephen Moyer

NBC’s risky ‘Sound of Music Live!’ premieres tonight

Carrie Underwood (center) stars as Maria in ''The Sound of Music Live!' tonight on NBC.

Spirited governess Maria Rainer (Carrie Underwood, center) helps her young charges rediscover the joy of singing in “The Sound of Music Live!,’ premiering tonight on NBC.

When NBC announced plans several months ago to present a new holiday version of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood as Maria, many Julie Andrews fans reacted with the same apoplexy that greeted the news that Ben Affleck would be the next Batman. To put it mildly, they had a problem with this Maria, and poor Underwood soon was getting hate tweets on her Twitter account.
That initial hysteria seems to have died down, for the most part, but as The Sound of Music Live! premieres tonight as a three-hour special on NBC, many viewers tuning in will be doing so to see whether Underwood – a former American Idol winner and country music superstar but an untested actress – can pull off this iconic character that brought Andrews her second Academy Award nomination as best actress.
If comparisons to the much-beloved Andrews are inevitable, to some extent they’re also irrelevant, though. While Underwood is playing the same character that Andrews portrayed in the 1965 Oscar-winning movie blockbuster, this new NBC production actually is (for the most part) a reimagining of the 1959 Broadway version of this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, which earned a Tony Award for Mary Martin. In recent days and weeks, anyone close to The Sound of Music Live! has been taking pains to draw that distinction, and fans of the 1965 film are sure to notice some striking differences, particularly in the order and context of the songs. Whether they find those differences interesting or irritating remains to be seen.
“My Favorite Things,” sung by Maria in the film to calm the Von Trapp children during a thunderstorm, here is a duet for Maria and the Mother Abbess (Audra McDonald) early in the show, before Maria leaves the abbey. “I Have Confidence,” which Rodgers wrote expressly as a transition song for the film to follow Maria from the abbey to the Von Trapp estate, isn’t to be found in The Sound of Music Live!, although – try to stay with me, now – “Something Good,” a love song for Maria and the Captain (Stephen Moyer) that was written for the movie, has now replaced a similar song from the original Broadway production called “An Ordinary Couple.”
Baroness Elsa Shrader (Laura Benanti, Go On) and Max Detweiler (Christian Borle, Smash) are singing characters in this production, which means we get the happy restoration of two more songs from the original Broadway score, “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It.” Both numbers reflect the wordly, cynical attitude of Elsa and Max, which helps cut the sugar a bit.
Earlier this week, Sony released a studio recording of this cast performing the songs they’ll be singing live in tonight’s telecast. After hearing Borle and Benanti tear through their two numbers, I can’t ait to see these two Tony winners recreate them in live performance. I’m also looking forward to McDonald’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” which raises goosebumps on the CD
But back to Underwood. Obviously, I have no idea how well she’ll pull off the acting part of her role, although come on, she’s playing Maria, not Medea. Based on the CD, however, I can report that vocally, she sounds sunny and self-assured. If you’re tuning in expecting her to face-plant in her songs, you’re probably going to be disappointed. She makes an especially lovely thing out of “Something Good,” which she sings simply and without affect (Moyer’s very good in this duet, too, and in his other songs).
I’ve got my fingers crossed that NBC’s team is able to pull off this technically daunting production. Certainly, it was smart casting to hire seasoned theater pros like McDonald (who has five Tony wins to her credit), Borle and Benanti to lend Broadway credibility to a project whose leading lady is green in terms of stage experience. Yet while it admittedly takes awhile to get used to hearing these familiar tunes sung in anything other than Andrews’ crystalline, British-inflected soprano, once you get past that hurdle, Underwood’s singing is very persuasive. To paraphrase a lyric from the movie, I have to agree, she has confidence in herself.
Stephen Moyer and Laura Benanti star in 'The Sound of Music Live!' tonight on NBC.

Stephen Moyer stars as Georg von Trapp and Laura Benanti is Baroness Elsa Shrader in ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ on NBC.

New on Blu-ray: True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season

true blood 5
Less than a month before Season Six premieres, HBO Home Entertainment today releases last season of its hit series True Blood on a special features-packed five-disc Blu-ray set that also includes a DVD and digital copy, capturing a cycle of 12 episodes that received a decidedly mixed reaction from fans when they originally aired on the premium service last summer. (Note: What follows reviews general highlights of season-five story lines, although I have tried to avoid any genuine spoilers. If you haven’t seen these episodes, proceed at your own risk).
Most of the viewer unhappiness stemmed from the creative decision to spend much of Season Five with fan favorites Bill Compton and Eric Northman (Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard) held captive in the New Orleans headquarters of The Authority, a vampire shadow organization headed by an autocratic Guardian named Roman Zimojik (guest star Christopher Meloni). Supposedly dedicated to mainstreaming vampires into the global culture, the group had, in fact, been infiltrated by the Sanguinistas, a vampire splinter faction driven by the fanatical worship of an ancient goddess named Lilith, who urged her disciples to seize control of the world and view humans only as food.
While that might have been a provocative notion for a limited secondary story line, this tedious and claustrophobic plot played out predictably and gave the True Blood screenwriters free rein to indulge their worst tendencies when it comes to exploring topics of religion and politics, using a sledgehammer to drive home “metaphors” reflecting real-life world events. Mercifully, things improved significantly mid-season with the return of Denis O’Hare as campy but terrifying vampire Russell Edgington, partnered with an unlikely but inspired new companion: Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian), the anti-bloodsucker fundamentalist firebrand from earlier seasons, now claiming his new identity as “a proud gay vampire-American.” The duo’s wonderful chemistry together injected a critically needed transfusion of comic relief into the otherwise dour Authority doings.
Elsewhere, the season’s biggest game-changer arrived in the opening moments as Sookie (Anna Paquin) made the high-risk choice of saving her dying BFF Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) by having her turned into what she hated most in the world: a vampire. The season-long fallout from that decision gave a much-needed reboot to a character who had been turned from a feisty firebrand into an exhausted victim by the events of previous seasons, and Wesley seized the opportunity. In the most poignant Season Five development, the show’s resident Romeo and Juliet, sweet-natured Hoyt Fortenberry (Jim Parrack) and baby-vamp Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll), faced a series of painful decisions in the wake of his Season Four discovery that she was carrying on a passionate affair with Hoyt’s best friend, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten). Don’t miss a quiet but devastating scene between these three characters around a table at Merlotte’s in the 10th episode of this Blu-ray set. If it doesn’t have you reaching for the Kleenex, you’re made of stone.
As usual, technically these discs are flawless and include the company’s expected extras such as commentaries by cast members and production team members you can listen to while the episodes unfold, as well as a “flashback” feature to remind you of the significance of what’s happening in a scene. For example, Season Five opens with Bill on the phone at his mansion while Eric, in the background, cleans up a gory mess. The flashback feature, if enabled, shows you the Season Four scene in which they assassinated Authority bigwig Nan Flanagan, so you know whose remains Eric is frantically cleaning up.
Also, be sure to catch an “autopsy” of the action-packed episode six, in which the actors, producers and design team members reveal a lot of genuinely fascinating production detail that you might otherwise not even have noticed.
All in all, a stunning record of a True Blood season that was, in terms of story, a very mixed bag.