Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sound of Mediocre, Brought to you by NBC

Me and my big mouth. When my nephew, Myles, asked me if he could share my initial reaction to Carrie Underwood playing Maria with an editor-friend who was interviewing him for ABC.com, I obviously didn’t consider the outcome. (6738 comments so far. No, I didn’t bother to read them all.) Now I’m being quoted by entertainment journalists and bloggers, and I’m being criticized by perfect strangers for my opinions, which is kind of annoying, because since this is about my immediate family (we're not blood-sucking distant relations like some of the comments suggested) I think I have a right to express those opinions. Unfortunately, this experience has turned out to be more about fall-out from expressing those opinions than from the performance itself. It actually solidifies for me why, up until starting this blog, I mostly avoided the topic all together. After this post, I’m ready to go back to maintaining a low profile. So don’t expect to see any more activity on this blog. I’m thinking this will be my swan song.

But first, I feel obligated to finish what I started. For all of you who clamored for public apologies for criticizing Carrie Underwood, I’m sorry to disappoint you, because you’re not going to get one. I stand by what I said in last year’s post. She’s a talented country music star, but she is not an actress. And I think she proved that to the world last night. She kicked-ass on Lonely Goatherd – yes the girl can yodel. But beyond that I found the overall production to be completely underwhelming and mediocre at best. I kept wondering why NBC would settle for a community theater quality production. Boston Herald arts editor Michael Perigard really captured it well in his review.

As with many things, this is all a matter of personal taste and opinion. I know many people loved it, loved Carrie, thought it was great, enjoyed the nostalgia trip, etc. Many of my family members disagree quite strongly with my opinion. They asked me to keep an open mind. I tried. They declared it spectacular. I disagreed. My niece texted me, “I don’t think I understand what purpose being super critical or negative about this serves. I think they are doing it fine, anyone under 20 or so don’t really know the story. Now they will.” Ok. Good point. I wasn’t intending to be super-critical or negative, I questioned the original casting choices, and then waited to see what turned out. Personally, I think the best thing about last night’s performance was that it exposed the world to the original Broadway production, which had some great songs that never made it to film.

For everyone who thought the whole thing was wonderful and that NBC did a spectacular job, I say maybe your expectations weren’t high to begin with. If they hoped to have created a new holiday classic, I think they missed their mark. I expect most of that $9M was spent hyping last nights performance. (Then again, I could just be jaded, an arrogant snob and dead wrong.) Maybe my mistake is having higher expectations overall, and especially when classics – theater or film – are involved. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Here’s just another example how poor the quality of TV has become because viewers require so little to keep them glued to the set. We should all demand a little more for our viewing time, don’t you think?

And for all of you who feel sorry for Carrie, I really wouldn't worry too much about it. She’s a pro – she can take a little criticism. She got a lot of publicity out of this. And she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank.

41 comments:

  1. Myles G. von Trapp DerbyshireDecember 6, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Aunt Francoise, I agree with everything you said and I stand by what I said in the article yesterday. The performance was exactly what I expected. This has been an eye-opening experience about the power of media, and the varying opinions of a viewing audience. I applaude Underwood for taking the chance that she did, but believe it was a bad choice on the network's part to cast her. It's powerful to see that our family's story is still very much alive, and as I said yesterday to ABC, I am extremely proud. I love you!

    -Myles

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    1. Thanks Myles! I love you too! Be strong! :-)

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    2. I fully agree w/both of you!

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    3. Francoise, they asked you what you thought of it. Don't apologize for telling them how you felt about it. Everyone is allowed to their opinion. Just because your family is famous doesn't mean you need to sugar coat your opinion as to not offend fans of another famous person! I'm glad you told it the way you felt about it! :-)

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    4. I applaud you for giving your honest opinion about it. Why should you have to sugar coat what you thought about her performance just so you don't hurt the feelings of her fans or her? :-). You are totally entitled to your opinion, whether it is the same as the majority or not! Please don't apologize for your opinion, and don't stop telling it like you feel! :-)

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  2. I watched and agree with you. An actress she is not. Love the Von Trapp story, but had a hard time with it. Hollywood needs to quit remaking classic films because it rarely works and in my opinion is a bad idea. Happy Holiday Season, Von Trapp family.

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  3. I came across your blog through a link from another website. I must say I agree with your points. I saw about an hour of the show last night. It was ok. The singing was good overall but Carrie's acting was a bit underwhelming.

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  4. I just don't understand how 18.5 million people having a tiny look into your family’s life can be bad and trust me, that is all Carrie. No matter how you feel about Carrie, she can bring it those type of numbers and make no mistake, she was 100% committed to doing this project the best she could and had complete respect for it. And whether you agree with this or not either, this is a business and these types of stories are hard to pull in viewers in these days of wanting to see nothing but action. Carrie can do that. Honestly, and I feel strongly about this, I think the issue is that all, including you, still want to see another movie up there with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and all the original kids on location running across the hills of Austria and nothing short of that will be acceptable. And before you jump immediately into answering that, I am hoping you will please think about it first and determine if that is 100% not true before you answer. There was no way a movie remake of this would have ever made it to the theater so these producers wanted to try and get the network to allow it to be brought to TV and they did. But they will never allow musicals on TV again unless the ones that are brought to TV are successful. How could people seeing basically Broadway on their TV be bad. And you have to have the person leading it that can bring in those numbers and they have to be able to play the right age and have the vocal chops and be able to bring in the viewers. You really think some little miss Jane Doe could have done this? Carrie can and did do all that. But again, I hope you will think deep and hard before you respond about just wanting another Julie Andrews movie.

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    1. Who said I wanted 18.5M people having any look at my family? I don't want another Julie Andrews movie. I was opposed to any remake at all! Once was enough. Believe me!

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    2. Whike I respect your opinion/- you clearly ignored how fantastic carries singing was and focused only on her acting. You and Myles had a bias against carrie a year ago- trashing her unfairly as tabloid fodder. Carrie is a respectable girl who stays out of the tabloid and rehab and did not deserve your snark.

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    3. Dear VonTrapps: Carrie is a 6 Time Grammy winner with over 150 major music industry awards. She is not some lame tabloid fodder you alluded to last year in your snobbery. I love your story- but I think your bias against carrie from a year ago was wrong and tainted your view.

      She is a nice respectable girl- never any scandals or rehab. I was shocked when your famy snubbed her as reality tv tabloid fodder when she has 6 Grammys and a spotless reputation.

      Carrie also has a college degree with honors- magna c um laude- so she is not some dumb blonde bimbo that you seem to see her as.

      Her singing was flawless and LIVE while Jukie admitted they all lip synced in the movie.

      Carrie did great singing in every song- not just the Lonely goatherd. You don't give her enough credit.

      Perhaps your family shoukd do a little research on Carrie before dismissing her as reality tv trash.

      Carrie has not only 6 Grammys and a college degree with honors- but she has A Golden Globe Nomination for songwriting.

      She is much more than what you see! It is a shame you are so closed minded against her.

      She also donated $1 million to the Red Cross last year for tornado relief. Sounds like trashy tabloid fodder to me right!? Not!

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    4. If you read y blog post you will see that I said nothing to disparage Ms. Underwood. I agree she is a talented singer. None of the thing you mention qualify her to be cast as Maria. She is not an actor.

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  5. Ok, fair enough. I will close by saying I enjoyed knowing about the family through the original movie and this TV production and I personally would have been saddened if I had not been able to experience your family's story. And I am glad that I can watch it with my kids someday like I watched it with my mom. Kids now want to see an updated version, whether people think that is good or bad, and now I have both. I may not agree with you but good luck to you.

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  6. Great this beautiful story was told again for younger generations to see. I had forgotten the meaning of it all and that the sound of this families' music saved their lives. What a talented family in many ways. I hope that parents are explaining all this to their kids that are watching to help the next generations understand WW2 more. This is important so people never forget. I'm here because my Father also survived this war.

    I'm so curious what happened to the family after the concert. Did they all survive the war and what happened to Uncle Max?

    By the way, I thought the music was beautiful in both versions. What out of the musical was actually true??

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  7. Marilyn,
    The movie diverges quite a bit from the true story. Short story is that the family left Austria by way of Italy on a train (not climbing over a mountain - from where they lived in Salzburg if you climb over a mountain you're either still in Austria or in Germany. They emigrated to America and sang concerts around the world for over 20 years. If you want to learn the whole story, I recommend you read my grandmother's book that the Sound of Music is based on. It's called The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. I've also answered many of these questions on earlier blog posts, beginning in February 2010. You'll find them in the archives on the right. Enjoy!

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    1. Long ago in middle school, I actually read both "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" and another (fiction) book which became a musical, T. H. White's "The Once and Future King"

      Relationship of the books to the musicals: not much. That's how it goes.

      What actually startled me at the time about Maria's book versus the movie is not how the family left, but time scope. Their marriage was actually years before, and of course the events which caused the family to start singing were also well before the Anschluss.

      Fame is a curious thing, a veil which puts our avatars on view without showing the real us. Don't let it make feel you hurt in this case.

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  8. I didn't watch the televised SOM-- all the hype scared me away. Also I feel that the current generation seems contented with less when it comes to entertainment and is willing to call crap a masterpiece (perhaps it has always been this way with TV). Since the original movie is an absolute favorite of mine, I decided to skip this new version (gimmick?) with the substandard 'hot star' of the day. I don't think I am being a snob, just a realist.

    I think your opinions are valid. Plus you are perfectly entitled to your opinion and to express it on YOUR blog. People need to get over it. I am so tired of people raising a stink because others are brave enough to express their opinion instead of just nodding along to the hype.

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    1. Thank you Jackie! I'm getting some pretty nasty comments on the previous post! I'm surprised how ignorant and vicious people can be about something they know nothing about. This will be my last post.

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  9. I have been following pretty well the on-line comments of yourself and your nephew as to Ms. Underwood and THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE. In all honesty, I think the problem lies with NBC as to both its casting choices for all roles, not just the female lead role, and as to the overall quality of the production. That being said, however, after I viewed on-line a few clips from the production, I came to this conclusion that was primarily based upon the DO RE MI musical number: I became very much aware that the joy that was exuded by both Ms. Underwood and the children in this number was definitely going to make a favorable impression on the young children viewing this show with their families. The choreography was not polished, the guitar was out-of-place entirely, and there was nothing sung by Ms. Underwood in the soprano or even mezzo-soprano range. Yet, even so, these factor s did not remove the joy that was conveyed, at least that I believe was likely so conveyed to the young viewers. So, in this respect, I think, ironically, your family's valid concern of your family legacy being honored has in a sense been addressed just by the fact alone of the joy being experienced by the youngest of viewers. I am aware of course, very much aware, that there were viable alternatives to Ms. Underwood for the lead role: Marie Osmond, who some years back toured nationally in the role of Maria and in THE SOUND OF MUSIC; and has both considerable theatrical experience and a voice that can sing in the soprano range, would have been an excellent choice (so long as of course that casting of the male lead corresponded to her in various ways, including talent-wise). Bless you and your family; long live all the surviving Von Trapps; and: Happy holidays. :-) :-) :-)

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  10. I grew up listening to the Mary Martin version of The Sound of Music and my brother's first visit to Radio City Music Hall was to see the Julie Andrew's Hollywood version. Your family's story is inspirational, but the TRUE story even more so. I took the Sound of Music tour when in Salzburg on my honeymoon. Great to see the true convent/church where your grandmother was a novice.

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    1. Thank you! Many people have told me this has nothing to do with my family, because its based on a myth. I think what bothers me is exactly that. The true story was so much better! I just wish that more people cared about that.

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  11. Dear Francoise,
    I don't give a rat's ass about ratings, numbers, business and all what people are so excited about! I do approve with you 100%!
    I am 24 years old, I basically lived with the movie and loved it all my childhood. Despite the fact that it is one of my favorite movies all-time, I can relate to you sadness. Nowadays, they are looking for stories that can be turned into movies, which will generate cash. But for you, it was not about the numbers, not about the money: for you it's personal, it's your life, and nobody should try to close your mouth because of what you said. They should respect your opinion, because the whole story/movie/musical is based on a life that includes you, and if not you, then who has something to say??? But they don't see it like that, they don't give a shit, they are like hawks looking for... I don't even know anymore what for. This entire Hollywood and American television seems to me like something without a soul, without feelings, although they make "beautiful" productions which "touch our souls".
    Personally, I have never listened to Carrie Underwood by my choice, but do agree that she can sing. I am from Romania, and I sang 12 years of my life. Music is a big part of my life, and I can tell if someone has it, or should do something else with their life. Carrie sure can sing, but I missed Maria in this live productions. I felt Carrie paying too much attention to remembering the lines, and playing her role like a robot, instead of being all sweet, gentle, loving and united with the children. Watching it, I felt like she was acting and singing apart from the children, when in the movie this is exactly what I love: how close she is with the children and how fast she falls in love with them.
    You have all the right in the world to write your opinion, and since we claim to ourselves that we live in a free world (especially a free America), I don't get it how you can be accused of speaking your truth, writing your opinion, and listening to your gut. Everybody resonates with experiences in different ways, we don't have to like it, and it cannot be the end of the world for that.
    My heart is with you and I really can understand what you are going through, because something similar happened to me this year, that I almost gave up and said I would close my blog. But no, sir! You are a journalist, I am a writer: this is who I am, this is what I love to do! I won't close my blog for nobody, and you shouldn't either. You should chose what is best for you, what you want; and if you conclude that you feel more OK with this blog gone, then close it. But don't do anything just because the media is so evil.
    I don't know you, nor your family, but in time, I got to love the movie and the songs, which now I know by heart. After all of these years of growing up with the movie, it was very hard not to have expectations and to be disappointed afterwords.
    I they should have asked your opinion (yours and your family's) before making this production (this, if they would really have cared for you to be OK with what are they doing...)
    Of course that for those who don't know the movie, this production is good because shows a beautiful story about this united family in a world where all the movies are about violence, sex and drugs. But we cannot be blamed for having high expectations, and Carrie for sure was not ready for this Live performance. P.S. And for the hater: No, I wouldn't have acted better that Carrie, if I would have been in her shoes, but that's not the point. When you want to make a huge production like this, you should choose the best artist/actor based on his/her experience, not on cute and angelic face.
    Best wishes from Romania,
    Luana Karner

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  12. Thank you Luana! You have warmed my heart and made me smile with your kind and thoughtful words. I live in Arizona now, but many of my friends here are from Romania, and you remind me of them. Naroc!

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    1. Oh, you are so sweet! :) I have never been to America, but I sure hope I will travel there someday. Thank you for replying! :)

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  13. This is your blog and you don't have to apologize for anything!

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  14. My comments likely echoes the majority; Underwood as expected did a great job singing, after that????????????

    Knowing full well this was an attempted revival of the Mary Martin stage production and not the Andrews movie (That is about the ONLY defense I have heard of this mess and am truly tired of that apology)

    Carrie will never be confused with julie Andrews or any other seasoned actress for the matter, she was wooden and lacked , well anything

    Liesl, whatever happened to the ”love” of all young ,men growing up in the 60’s through 80’s, no offense Ariane Rinehart but you simply do not possess the naive charm projected by Charmain Carr.

    I am loath to criticize the young performers but each and every one seemed to be saying “look at me” as if this was their singular opportunity at fame?

    And why did NBC think it necessary to make a clown out of loveable old Max?

    My biggest gripe? Stephen Moyer, you ain’t Christopher Plummer or certainly not Ritter Von Trapp

    I realize NBC is hoping to sell millions of copies of their so called “Holiday Classic,” I am happy watching my DVD of Julie Andrews

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  15. " I kept wondering why NBC would settle for a community theater quality production"

    I would love to know what community theatres you've worked with/been to that have those kinds of Tony-winning actors, costumes, sets, choreography, and musicians. Because I need to move there and get involved if they're that good.

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    1. If these actors were Tony-award winning, it certainly wasn't for this particular performance. The audio was also bad, you could hear the music over the voices and there was a white noise hum the whole time. I agree the sets were good. Two years ago I had the pleasure of attending Copperstar Reperatory Theater's production of Sound of Music http://www.copperstarrep.org/ and I have to say when I was watching this, I was thinking how much better that performance was in comparison to NBCs. They did a superb job, and not a Grammy or Tony among them.

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    2. Copperstar Rep is in Gilbert, AZ, btw.

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  16. Thanks for being real! You are entitled to your opinion. You are right about Carrie... she is not an actress and does not claim to be.

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  17. I generally enjoyed the show, but Carrie is no actress. I think coming down on the entire production is unfair. I've seen stage versions many many times (high quality) professinal not community theatre and with the exception of Underwoods performance it was a hit

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  18. I believe Audra won a Tony, it was a live performance stuff happens. Hope they do more! For the record I've always been a fan of anything related to your family, its history, family, and lodge. I have many books and interviews that the family has done. I did have high expectations for the show and it did have some issues but not enough to rip the entire production apart. As I said it was a live performance, stuff happens.

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  19. I agree with you about Carrie and her acting skills. But for you to say that it was "community theatre quality" is bogus. Every single one of those performers are award winning actors and singers, who have practiced their craft for years. Carrie was eclipsed by the talent that surrounded her. The brightest star in the production was Audra Mcdonald, who is a five time Tony award winner. So go ahead and trash the production all you want, but until you can get up and do what those actors do, please refrain from the low blows regarding their performances.

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    1. i have seen better community theatre projects than this one, especially using a much smaller budget!

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  20. You won't be writing on this blog anymore? I hope you change your mind. Nice meeting you online!

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  21. Refrain from the low blows regarding their performances? she LIVED it! Why should she not have the right to state her opinion?

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  22. The Sound of Music was and is a classic. It's hard to top perfection but Hollywood keeps trying it and most generally failing miserably. As to your blog Francoise, it is YOUR blog and you are entitled to YOUR opinion! Everyone has one and should respect that right. After all, it was your family history, not anyone else's! Your family's story is an amazing testimony to perseverance and tenacity. It is full of love and kindness, faith and healing. I read the original or parts of it on the Von Trapp Family website years ago and it was awe-inspiring. I'm sorry this is your final blog, you shouldn't let anyone dictate to you, no one defines you but YOU.

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  23. No offense to Myles but I saw his comment on wanting Anne Hathaway to play Maria lol. I thought you had to be kidding on that comment surely?? You really thought Ann Hathaway would drop over to TV just to do your story for a pittance of what she makes per movie on the big screen? There is no family story that would have lured her to that downgrade. At least you could have logical on your choice when talking to the media. Ummm, I think Kate Middleton should have been Maria - since NBC would have had about as much chance of getting her as they would Anne Hathaway. I could no longer take you or your family seriously after seeing that one comment!! I am sure you were paid quite handsomely for the original movie so get over yourselves please. You are just a family like any family. All this worship among yourselves for yourselves and among those that worship your family, is ridiculous. Why does anyone even care about who you thought should play Maria when your only rise to fame is people slightly recalling the Von Trapp name through a musical that aired almost 50 yrs ago.. Oh yes, I heard the family lodge got a surge after Ms Underwood, that you find so horrible, played Maria. Let me ask, do you get any money from that? If so, that is quite hypocritical to say the least. Again, you need to get over yourself.

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  24. Hello! I don't really have much to say on this post, though I do agree with you on Carrie Underwood, but I just found your blog and have read through all the posts and truly enjoyed reading about your family! I've read most of the books written by Maria and others about the true story of your family, and I think it's so much more inspiring and beautiful than the movie (though I do love the movie too!). The way your family lived out their Catholic faith was beautiful and has influenced me profoundly in my own Catholic faith and how I would like to raise a family someday (I own and love rereading Maria's book about celebrating the liturgical year, she had such a love for it!) Anyways, I know you said this would be your last post and I'm sorry it is because the posts before were a joy to read, but thank you for taking the time to write this blog!

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