Should Carrie Underwood Have Dared to Play Maria Von Trapp?

December 8, 2013

Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live!

Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live!

“You have a lot of guts. You’re competing with someone who’s older than you, who’s had more experience.” — Simon  Cowell to Carrie Underwood after singing her final American Idol song, ‘Angels Brought Me Here.’

America Idol’s 2005 winner, Carrie Underwood certainly does have guts! She dared to play Maria, the singing governess from The Sound of Music–bravely following in the mighty footsteps of the beloved Julie Andrews. Andrews, who starred in the 1965 film has stolen generations of hearts with her top-notch singing, warm-hearted personality, and undeniable on-screen finesse. Carrie Underwood’s claims to fame are her powerful singing voice and clearly her popularity, which is indicated by the fact that she won every week of competition in American Idol. But it is Underwood’s acting ability that has come into question this past week. As the pop star acted in the 2011 movie, Soul Surfer as well as tackling a role in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, she has proven herself capable–at least to some–of branching out from singer to actress. Certainly, this acting experience satisfied the producers of NBC’s three-hour televised play last Thursday, Sound of Music Live! Carrie was selected to play the lead role of Maria von Trapp, and was surrounded with Broadway veterans and Tony Award winners teeming with experience in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Myles von Trapp Derbyshire, the great grandson of the real Maria von Trapp, called into question why anyone would ever want to remake the classic film. But his biggest concern was the casting of Grammy-winner Carrie Underwood for the remake. “Although her voice is amazing, she doesn’t have acting experience,” he said of Underwood. “It’s just the overall image, she’s a country star, she won ‘American Idol,’ she’s very public in kind of a tabloid way.” So who would he prefer to play the role of Maria? “[Our family has] had the conversations of who could play this role better, and it was Anne Hathaway, for example,” he said. “Here’s someone who just won an Oscar for a similar situation [in Les Miserables]. She was able to act and sing.”

Indeed, Carrie told Entertainment Weekly that she had received hate tweets for accepting the role. “I get hate tweets and stuff like that and like, ‘You’re not Julie Andrews!’” she told EW. “I know I’m not—nobody is, and I would never pretend that I was. I know my place, you know?”

The real Maria von Trapp, born Maria Augusta Kutschera

The real Maria von Trapp, born Maria Augusta Kutschera

Since the production aired, critics have praised Underwood’s strong singing, but have taken aim at her acting, calling it bloodless. “She delivered her spoken lines with all the inflection and spontaneity of an in-flight safety video,” stated the New York Times. In response to the negative reviews, Carrie’s fans have come out in droves. “I say ‘BRAVO’ Carrie Underwood and NBC. Perfect? Far from it, but it was a valiant try and I hope you all try, try, try again,” one blogger wrote. Carrie’s cast members have come out as well; Laura Benanti, who played the Baroness, said, “I caught wind of the fact that people were disparaging Carrie and I thought, ‘Why would you do that?’ She took on such a huge risk, she performed her little heart out, she sounded amazing, and she worked so hard to open herself up. I think people came in wanting to not like her.”

Indeed, Carrie herself turned to Twitter to stand up for herself: “Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight… 1 Peter 2:1-25,” she wrote.

So, what do you think? Did any of you watch the televised play? As an actor, and knowing how difficult it is to put yourself out there, do you sympathize with Carrie? Or do you think it’s a good wake-up call for a singer who dares to take on the very different skill of acting?

Don’t Forget to Play!

November 19, 2011

“Don’t stop me now–I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball!” –Freddie Mercury

 If you have kids, you hear a lot about the importance of play. But how about adults? Suddenly, it’s work that consumes us. With all the drama (pun intended) involved in being an actor, it’s easy to overlook the joy of the profession. But, in the acting game, it’s not only acceptable to play around–it’s required! How many times have you seen an actor having such a good time, you couldn’t help but get caught up in the performance? Jack Nicholson in The Shining“Here’s Johnny!” Obviously, having a blast. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Musichaving a ball! And even in tragic films like Boys Don’t Cry, Hillary Swank looked like she was having the time of her life playing the role of Brandon Teena.

And here’s a new inspiration for the spirit of play. Bored by a temp job, and tired of waiting for someone to give him a stage, comedian Charlie Todd decided to make his own. He created Improv Everywhere–sort of like Candid Camera meets flash mob. Todd has organized over 100 absurd, and joyful public scenes. Click here to watch some of his missions, which are sure to get you into a fun state of mind.

Everyone experiences joy differently. For some, joy is working hard and having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. For others, it’s being childlike, almost giddy. And there are those who enjoy the escape of getting caught up in the make believe. The point is, through all the hard work, the trials and travails of the acting life, few would argue, it’s a fun ride. Dig in!