For Tony Winner Audra McDonald, The Sound of Music Live! Is an Unexpected Full-Circle Moment

By Adam Hetrick
04 Dec 2013

Carrie Underwood and Audra McDonald
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Something wonderful that audiences who only know the film will discover is that there is a deepening of the supporting characters in the stage production. We learn more about Elsa and Max, as well as the relationship between Mother Abbess and Maria, who duet on "My Favorite Things."
AM: Any time you get a little bit of history on these characters, it's a wonderful thing. In the stage production we learn a little bit about Mother Abbess; that she was raised kind of in the same area that Maria was, that she knows that song too, that she has a little bit of Maria in her. Maria is able to bring her back to her childhood in singing "My Favorite Things" for Mother Abbess, which Mother Abbess asks her to do, then Mother Abbess can't help herself and she joins in. Also, it's obvious that they've had chats before - that Mother Abbess has allowed her to leave the abbey. You see that there's a bond there. She obviously has a bond with all the sisters, but she seems quite protective of Maria.

This is a unique amalgam of a Broadway musical and, essentially, a broadcast of a live film. What is the energy like in the room? Technically, can you compare it to your other work on stage or screen?
AM: At first we were in a regular rehearsal studio, rehearsing it like a regular Broadway show, but then it got difficult when we got to the sound stage. Normally, at this point, you're moving into a theatre and this is when you would go into tech. For this, we're moving into a sound stage that's the size of a football field. Then there are all these other departments, not just lighting and sound, but cameras. But if you want to get dressed, you have to leave the building to go get dressed. If you want to go to make-up, you have to run a touchdown to go do make-up [laughs] - the enormity of it all. But that being said, everybody that's involved in this production is just the cream of the crop. A lot of the cameramen are the cameramen who have done the Tony Awards or Live from Lincoln Center, so they're all wonderful. And Beth [McCarthy-Miller], you can't get a better television director than Beth, especially when it comes to live stuff. She makes you feel safe, and she keeps the atmosphere joyous. And Rob Ashford is the same, especially when we were in the rehearsal studios. They work together so beautifully. I said to Stephen Moyer last night, "You know what? I think I would want Beth to fly the plane I was on, even if she can't fly a plane!" [Laughs.]

Do you have a stand-out moment that is a particular favorite for you from The Sound of Music?
AM: For me, it's Captain Von Trapp reconnecting to his soul, his children and his family through music. Music brings him back to his family and his life. That gets me.

There's also talk that you'll be returning to Broadway shortly. Any chance you might share news of the project?
AM: I cannot tease you with anything. But the rumors are true!

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Jessica Molaskey as Sister Berthe, Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess and Christiane Noll as Sister Margaretta
Photo by Will Hart/NBC