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Originally published Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 5:05 AM

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‘The Sound of Music Live!’ comes to NBC on Dec. 5

When NBC shows “The Sound of Music Live!,” it will be the first time in more than 50 years that a broadcast network has mounted a full musical for live TV. Good thing it has theater veteran Stephen Moyer and country star Carrie Underwood in the cast.

The Associated Press


‘The Sound of Music Live!’

8 p.m. Thursday, NBC

Tonight in Prime Time

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NEW YORK — Maria, former would-be nun, is about to get married.

Starring as Maria in NBC’s new version of “The Sound of Music,” Carrie Underwood is clad in her own T-shirt and leggings plus a wedding veil as she reverently steps through the bare-bones Manhattan rehearsal space while three dozen castmates, on their feet as if in church, sing, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”

Underwood’s procession ends at the “altar” (marked by a music stand) to join her groom, Capt. von Trapp, played by jeans-and-sweater-sporting Stephen Moyer.

During this preliminary run-through a few weeks ago, much remained to get “The Sound of Music Live!” ready for airtime on Thursday, when it will make history: More than a half-century has passed since a broadcast network has dared to mount a full-scale musical for live TV.

It would have been risky enough revisiting this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic on any terms. But this is no remake of the not-to-be-tampered-with Julie Andrews juggernaut, declares Neil Meron, one of the executive producers.

Instead, “The Sound of Music Live!” is the 1959 Broadway musical re-imagined for TV, then given extra crackle with a live presentation.

Meron’s message: Everybody knows “The Sound of Music,” or thinks they do from the 1965 film. But relatively few are acquainted with the stage original. Drawing from it, “The Sound of Music Live!” is meant to feel familiar, yet at the same time come across as new and different.

Consider: Moyer with castmates Laura Benanti (as Baroness Elsa Schrader) and Christian Borle (as Max Detweiler) are rehearsing a saucy song titled “How Can Love Survive?” This song will be new to most — it was dropped from the movie.

The entire production has taken up residence in a cavernous Long Island, N.Y., soundstage. Grumman Studios’ Stage 3, with square footage rivaling a football field, is now home to the terrace, along with five neighboring sets including the abbey, a festival site draped with huge swastikas and the summit over which (spoiler alert) Maria, the Captain and his seven children pass to flee the Nazis.

It is for this soaring finish that Tony- and Grammy-winning Audra McDonald reprises “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” the breathtaking anthem that Mother Abbess introduces as she sends Maria into the world.

Though best known as a vampire on HBO’s “True Blood,” Moyer, too, is a theater veteran, as are Borle and Benanti.

And then there’s Underwood. Despite her status as a multiplatinum country music superstar who rose to fame as the 2005 winner of “American Idol,” she might seem something of a wild card: She has never had a major acting role.

“Carrie is one of the bravest artists we’ve ever worked with,” says Meron, who notes that she arrived two weeks before the production’s six-week rehearsal began with her lines fully memorized.

“Every day,” she says during a break, “I feel like I discover new things and how to go places in acting that I didn’t think I could go.”

Even if she’s a drama neophyte as she faces her “Sound of Music” trial by fire, Underwood, by one measure, is the cast’s old hand: No one knows live TV, and its pressures, like she does.

“But this time, there’s no chance of me being voted out,” she laughs. “I’m here to stay.”

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