Neil Meron and Craig Zadan Gamble on a New American Tradition with The Sound of Music Live!

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05 Dec 2013

Craig Zadan
Photo by Monica Simoes

While fans can quote the film and even perform the choreography to "So Long, Farewell," the property's original, 1959 Tony Award-winning stage version is lesser known. Penned as a vehicle for Mary Martin, the stage production of The Sound of Music, which includes several songs that were left out during the restructuring of the film, casts more political shadows.

"The moment you tune in and watch this, you're going to know in the first couple of minutes that, 'Wow this is not the movie,' and we're excited about that," said Zadan. "Everyone in the world has seen the movie a thousand times, but very few people that I know have ever seen The Sound of Music on stage. We didn't want anyone to think that we were being disrespectful of the movie, or Julie Andrews."

Casting the role of Maria posed several challenges. The producers not only needed an actress capable of following in the footsteps of Mary Martin and Julie Andrews, both of whom were beloved by the public, but they needed a performer with wide viewer demographic appeal, who was the right type to play the part and could sing a legit Broadway score.

"Maria is basically goodness personified, and when you look at the landscape of people out there that bring that with them, it's Carrie Underwood," Meron said of the Grammy Award-winning country singer, who launched her career when she won the fourth season of "American Idol." Underwood was their first choice for Maria. "It kind of fits into what her fan base knows and loves about her in terms of her ability to sing great. Also, she's stage-based and she has all the qualities of Maria."



The Sound of Music Live! marks a new endeavor for the singer, who will make her primetime acting debut as Maria. "I'm always looking out for new opportunities," said Underwood, who grew up watching the film, but didn't have musical theatre as a large part of her life. "I love being able to step out of my comfort zone and be a part of projects that are different and exciting. I wouldn't say that I was necessarily looking for something like this, but I sure am glad that it found me."

The star is also aware of the expectations and the legacy associated with the musical. "I truly consider myself to be blessed in that I get to help expand the legacy that is The Sound of Music," she said. "From the lives of Maria and the Captain and the children to the musical to the movie and to this wonderful TV event that we're doing... we're all helping to tell this beautiful story and pass on these incredible songs. It really is an honor to be a part of."

"She has been working like a demon," said Ted Chapin, the president and executive director of Rodgers and Hammerstein, which oversees the catalogue of the late Tony Award-winning songwriting team. "It’s fair to say that Carrie Underwood has the kind of name to get a project like this done."

Continued...

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