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

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05 Dec 2013

Ted Chapin
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

For her debut, Meron and Zadan have surrounded Underwood with a principal cast of theatre royalty and an ensemble company full of Broadway veterans. As Meron pointed out, "We wanted the best of the best who live, breathe and eat the theatre idiom because we are doing Broadway live on television," noted Meron. "[Carrie] is clearly aware that she is in really, really good company," Chapin remarked.

"I feel so lucky that I am surrounded by so much talent," Underwood said. I feel like I get to be a sponge and soak up so much from them. I get to sit back and learn from the best of the best."

The list of the best of the best includes Tony Award winners Laura Benanti and Christian Borle, as Elsa Schrader and Max Dettweiler, respectively, as well as five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess.

"We went after Audra with a vengeance," Zadan laughed. "If we're going to do The Sound of Music for today, we're going to have to reexamine what these roles are," Meron added, noting that McDonald also charts new territory as the first black actress to play the role of Mother Abbess in a major U.S. production of The Sound of Music.

"It's never a show I thought I would be in, never in my life," McDonald said. "It's a show that I've associated with, in terms of being a fan of it, being moved by it and it being a part of my life growing up, like every other kid in America." It also marks a full-circle moment for the soprano, who earned her first Tony Award in the 1994 Broadway revival of Carousel. "All of a sudden, here I am finding myself in the actual musical. It feels strangely like a homecoming, although, Lord knows, on paper it doesn't look like it should be, but it feels that way."

The telecast is also an unexpected homecoming for Benanti, who took over the role of Maria in the 1998 Broadway revival of The Sound of Music. At 18-years-old, the production marked her Broadway debut. "I never really thought I'd be looking at this piece through the eyes of Elsa, and in doing so I'm seeing different things. So it’s been exciting for me."

For Borle, it's a fresh start. "There are certain cultural black holes that I have, and actually The Sound of Music is one of them," he laughed. "I saw the movie for the first time maybe two years ago. What was interesting actually about seeing it for the first time was really kind of understanding the whole story as opposed to being a kid who kind of liked the jaunty tunes."


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