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

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05 Dec 2013

Rob Ashford and Laura Benanti in rehearsal.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Benanti echoed that statement. "It's one thing to open on Broadway. You've had your previews and you have your audience, but you know, we don't have an audience! We're just going to be performing this live, and our audience is millions of people sitting in their living room. I mean, I'm certainly nervous, but I’m trying not to focus on it too much."

The ambitious technical undertaking also presents new challenges for actors who are used to quick costume changes in the wings, just out of audience sightlines. According to Moyer, "In some sense it's TV with filmmaking, but because of the live aspect of it, we're doing a theatrical performance without a live audience. It's like nothing any of us had ever done, really."

McDonald added, "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. 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 - the enormity of it all."

The hybrid of theatre and live television, which has its challenges, also provides unique moments for viewers that will take them beyond the excitement of a purely live event.

According to Chapin, "There are a couple of transitions that they have devised that, to me, are absolutely brilliant notions of saying to the audience, 'We're not taking pictures of a theatre and we're not making a movie. We're doing something that is its own creation, and in our world things can happen.' That's quite magical."

Zadan and Meron are hoping that the magic will continue long after the von Trapps say "So Long, Farewell." While they declined to share which titles are up their sleeves, both are hoping that the airing of a live musical on NBC will become an annual event.

"It's one big experiment," Zadan said. "We're very aware of the fact that if it succeeds, it will prompt the network to ask us about doing it again. It could be the beginning of something new in terms of bringing theatre to America on TV. Once we see the ratings, our wish list will come out of our pockets.

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