‘Sound of Music Live’: Producers Call It a ‘Profoundly Complicated, Amazing Experience’

The Sound of Music Live

Exec producers Craig Zadan, Neil Meron already thinking about another event for next year

Exhausted and exhilirated — that’s how “Sound of Music Live” exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron feel this morning on the heels of pulling off NBC’s three-hour live telecast of the beloved tuner.

The pair have a deep resume of producing everything from stage tuners to TV series and telepics to feature films to this year’s Oscar telecast (and next year’s too), but “The Sound of Music Live” was still a particular challenge. And yes the big turnout across the country for the three-hour telecast has them already cogitating on what’s next.

SEE ALSO: ‘Sound of Music Live’ Ratings Sing for NBC

“It was one of the most profoundly complicated, amazing experiences we’ve ever had,” Zadan said.

Meron added that the ratings were a gratifying sign that America still loves a good musical.

“Musicals are always maligned for being popular,” Meron says. “The most gratifying thing about this whole experience is to deliver it live and have that impact in the heart of the country for people who can’t get to New York but really want to see these things.”

Zadan and Meron heaped appreciation on the project’s co-directors, Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller, for pulling off the tricky tango of working together on translating the musical to the small screen. Ashford “got the musical production on its feet,” Meron said, while McCarthy-Miller brought the vision of how to deliver it to America’s living rooms.

“Both of them worked very much in concert as a team to pull this off,” Meron said. “It’s quite a unique thing. It goes beyond what one person could actually do.”

The production was staged out of Grumman Studios in Bethpage, Long Island, a former airplane hangar converted to soundstage facilities. As Zadan, Meron and NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt sat together in a production truck Thursday night, they all noticed plenty of things that went awry, lines flubbed, sound problems from pesky microphones and lighting elements that didn’t quite come off.

“We saw a million things that went wrong with it. We were sitting there having a heart attack … but we finally said, ‘It’s live and you just have to accept that it as part of the excitement of doing it live.’ We just said ‘It is going to be what it is, it’s never going to be perfect,’ ” Zadan said.

The pair could not say enough about the support from Greenblatt (“nobody on the planet would have attempted this but Bob Greenblatt,” Zadan enthused) and the hard work of star Carrie Underwood.

“Her talent and bravery and passion to expand as an artist is what made this such a success,” Meron said.

Audra McDonald’s performance as the Rev. Mother belting out “Climb Every Mountain” drew instant praise online as the telecast unfolded. Zadan and Meron moved plenty of mountains to land her for the role, even though she had booked a concert tour that conflicted with rehearsals. The pair have worked with the stage vet several times in the past and knew she would help set the tone for the production. “She’s our good luck charm,” Meron said.

And even before the telecast was completed, buzz began to build for Ariane Rinehart, who shined in her role as Liesl (“That girl is such a star,” Meron assured).

After the telecast, cast and crew toasted their accomplishment at an afterparty on the studio lot. The thesps who played the nuns wrote a special song to salute Underwood’s perf, underscoring how close the actors came during the rehearsal process.

As the Nielsen numbers rolled in Friday morning, Zadan and Meron got a second wind to starting thinking seriously about the what’s next question — of course, they also have the March 2 Oscarcast with Ellen DeGeneres to produce first.

“We were sitting in the truck with Bob during the telecast last night and as each act went on we thought ‘Oh my god, it’s going well’ and we kept saying to him, ‘What’s next, what’s next year?’ He said ‘Calm down, wait til the ratings come out.’ This morning he emailed and said, ‘Get ready to get back to work.’ “

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  1. #TheSoundOfMusicLive. My whole family watches it.
    And Please this is not a movie, These is LIVE
    The whole cast and crew did an excellent job ! #Bravo

  2. Sylvia says:

    When you watch the program the 2nd time you see the depth of Ms. Underwood’s version of Maria. She softened Maria which didn’t please some but most people appreciated the gentle stage version which is much like the original musical. The movie took artistic liberties that differed greatly from the original play. And…..you can’t redo a LIVE performance like you do when you shoot a movie. Everyone keeps tring to compare them and that’s not appropriate. Give credit where it is due. These performers did a great job….including Ms. Underwood. Even Julie Andrews couldn’t master the tears needed in the scene with the Mother Abyss that ms. Underwood managed during a live performance. Her performance was heartfelt so bravo to her for having the courage to tackle such a difficult role. She and the children are the only ones who didn’t “overact”.

    • pharris says:

      I am 58 and originally saw the SOM in one of the huge theaters in NYC. I was 9. I was one of the lucky ones living in NYC where my teachers took our classes to the city in this case to watch the Sound of Music and other English teachers I had in Junior High and High School took us on field trips to Broadway shows. It was exciting. I live in Chicago now and still love musicals, much to sometimes the dismay of my friends cause I won’t stop singing. Since I love musicals , especially this one, I tuned in last week. I sat mesmerized at Underwood’s performance and the rest of the cast. December 5th is the date that I became a fan of Carrie Underwood. I can’t wait to hear her sing songs from other musicals. I can only imagine the joy and thrill brought into the living rooms of families and others alike to be treated by this exceptional production. Many of these families could not begin to afford a Broadway ticket. Joy is resonating now in those hills once more

  3. Barbara says:

    There is nothing as exhillirartig as LIVE, NOTHING like it. as a kid my mother worked in live TV , I hung around the Ed Sullivan theater watching it all and loved the experience and the crap shoot . I commend the Producers moving mtns to ensure Audra front and center. She was the key to set the bar. . Yes Carrie does not yet have the acting chops and it showed but my god the courage to carry this and get out there is to be commended. I was thrilled to see the numbers come in. love the edge of it. mistakes sure but so it moves on.

  4. Frank W says:

    It had it’s problems, they list them here, I think underwood wasn’t that great in the emoting part except during the song with the kids, but her singing voice was fine, just not what we’re used to, but they should do it again. I’ll watch whatever it is–just because it IS live! It’s a fun event.

  5. Broadway tries out shows out-of-town. Were I running NBC, I’d keep sets up, cast/crew on stand-by, and I’d get a REAL Broadway star to step in and reprise the entire production sans Carrie Underwood just before Xmas. Think of the publicity bonanza — and the ratings! Yes, Carrie Underwood’s feelings would get hurt; so what?

  6. Lizbeth Lee says:

    Carrie should have taken intensive diction and acting lessons before trying her hand at such a huge roll. I felt so sorry to watch her that I had to turn the television off. Her singing was too loud; she didn’t have any softness towards the child actors. Having Carrie play Maria von Trapp would be like Larry the Cable Guy playing Hamlet. What a horrible impression to leave for the “younger” generation that know zilch about the von Trapps. Live television only created a platform for Carrie to appear more stiff and uncomfortable.

    • Frank W says:

      I’m glad to see “Bob Hooka” ‘s comment was removed. You at least gave a critique, not a hateful stupid comment like he sent to you. I don’t think she was as bad as you wrote and don’t agree with it all. She was stiff, but only in the acting parts. Her singing was fine, remember, this isn’t the movie, it’s the play and she has a different voice than 8 octive Julie Andrews, but the stars have many fans and that’s why they were cast. For all of it’s faults, there were more successes, and I hope they do another live musical.

  7. joyce herbster says:

    I’d love a live production of “Chicago”!

  8. arnold k. says:

    Mr. Lowry can learn how to be a critic from Cynthia Littleton. One does not have to be simply negative to exhibit just how incredibly knowledgeable one is. The Republican “NO” congress does that better than Mr. Lowry. He should try some constructive thinking in his critiques. Negativity alone does not an intelligent critic make.

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