How Do You Solve A Problem Like Carrie Underwood?

9 things that went wrong, 6 things that went right, and 4 people who should've played Maria instead

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Carrie Underwood as Maria

Updated: 11:20am, Dec. 6.

An imposing Austrian manly-man falls for the nanny even though he is attached to a hot and accomplished brunette, and Twitter explodes over it. No, it’s not the Arnold Schwarzenegger – Maria Shriver – Mildred Baena love triangle, it’s NBC’s live staged version of The Sound of Music. The show wasn’t half as good as the 1965 Julie Andrews original, but it was so cringe-worthy that it was at least fun to watch.

Here’s what you missed if you flipped over to Scandal instead:

9 Things That Went Wrong (The Dog Bites, The Bee Stings):

1) When Carrie Underwood stepped out on the (wooded, not grassy) hills and started singing, I wished the hills were alive with the sound of hungry mountain lions. Why wasn’t she Julie Andrews? Is being Julie Andrews so much to ask for? No chic pixie cut either. Heidi braids.

2) After the glorious Audra McDonald as Mother Superior fires Maria from being a nun, Maria gets upset and they start singing “My Favorite Things.” It didn’t bother me that they repurposed this song here because Audra got to sing it (see “Things That Went Right.”) But Underwood just looked like she was twisting her face into a joyful expression over raindrops on roses. She looked like an emoticon for being constipated, if such a thing existed.

(Update: I hear you all. The comparisons here are between the NBC version and the 1965 Julie Andrews movie, not the original stage version. I know that some of the differences, especially the different song order, are consistent with the original show, but that’s not the version that’s tattooed on my heart.) 

3) Cut to Vampire Von Trapp in his Vampire von Mansion (played by Stephen Moyer of True Blood.) Moyer’s accent was sometimes German and sometimes English, which was weird because Underwood’s accent was always Southern.

4) They  sang “Do-Re-Mi” inside (except one part where they awkwardly splashed in their backyard fountain), which made me miss the long movie montage where they went on a carriage ride and a train and threw around tomatoes.

5) Rolf and Liesl had the worst date ever, because Rolf wore knee socks and what appeared to be brown jorts and spent the whole time telling Liesl how old she is. They didn’t even get to do that romantic gazebo dance because there wasn’t any gazebo. It wasn’t even raining. But for some reason Liesl still had feelings for him because she’s 16 and he had a hip bike.

6) Maria and the children  sang “Lonely Goatherd” in the bedroom thunderstorm scene instead of “Favorite Things,” but there is no elaborate puppet show with terrifying wooden dolls. In the Julie Andrews version, Maria proves that she is not only a great nanny but also a theatrical genius when she dazzled the Captain with her deft manipulation of dozens of creepy goatherd puppets. In this version, she just told a boring story to a bunch of kids who had the world’s lamest pillow fight (no hitting, they just waved pillows over their heads). Also, Underwood already lost her voice by this part.

7) Vampire von Trapp told Maria he wants her to wear a dress that was “lovely, soft and white,” which sounded particularly blood-suckingly gross. Later on, they kissed and the chemistry is nil.

8) Maria wore a Kate Middleton knockoff to marry the Captain, because even Austrian nuns love the royal wedding. But other times she dressed like Hillary Clinton, circa 1994.

9) At no point in the entire show did Rolf ever wear big boy pants. Even after he became a Nazi.

6 Things That Went Right (Raindrops on Roses, Whiskers on Kittens) 

1) As usual, Audra McDonald stole the show as Mother Superior. She schooled everyone in how musical theater is supposed to be done. Her “Favorite Things” duet was basically a lesson in how to perform a song: she looked as if she singing through a memory, feeling her way through the music. She had more nuance in one line than Underwood had in her whole performance. That made sense, considering McDonald has a record 5 Tonys to her name (Full disclosure: I once worked as an intern with McDonald, and she was lovely).

2) Laura Benanti brought a level of complexity to the Baroness that I’d never seen before, plus she rocked some seriously great outfits (pink top, red pants, anyone?) Her songs were by far the best in the show, but that may have something to do with the fact that they were cut from the 1965 movie.

3) Christian Borle nailed Uncle Max. Like all the other musical-theater veterans in this cast, he was funnier than his co-stars and he knew how to act through music. His song about the coming Anschluss, “No Way to Stop It,” was a major highlight — mostly because he performed it with Benanti and Moyer while Underwood was changing her clothes. He was also the only character who had any genuine reaction to the political situation in Austria; watching him try to talk to Maria about the Nazis was like watching David Axelrod try to explain voting rights to a vacuum cleaner.

4) Stephen Moyer was actually pretty good at singing “Edelweiss” when he wasn’t sucking blood.

5) Ariane Rinehart made a decent Liesl and Michael Campayno was a good Rolf; it wasn’t his fault we were all mesmerized by his constantly visible knees.

6) The kids were pretty cute.

4 People Who Would Have Made a Better Maria Than Carrie Underwood:

1) Kelli O’Hara: Broadway star of South Pacific, The Pajama Game.

2) Sutton Foster: starred in recently cancelled Bunheads on ABC, and was in Broadway’s Anything Goes.

3) Megan Hilty: Star of NBC’s recently cancelled Smash, she has the voice and the acting chops.

4) Morgan Freeman, who once played God.