Carrie Underwood’s ‘Sound Of Music’ Star Turn: Review Revue

Dec 6th, 2013 // 32 Comments
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NBC did the impossible last night (December 5) — they aired a live, three-hour staging of The Sound Of Music featuring a country singer who has no professional theater experience in the lead role. So they’ve done it (to the tune of $9 million, reportedly), but should they have done it? Well, that depends on who you ask. The general temperature of the Web seems to be that it made for an entertaining night, but not always for the right reasons.

Of course, we’re most interested in how Carrie Underwood did carrying the special as Maria von Trapp, the role made famous by Julie Andrews. The consensus is that Underwood nailed the songs, but once the music stopped and she was forced to act, she was less than stellar, leading to some stale chemistry with the Captain.

Head below for our review revue comprising reactions from critics across the Internet. And as for Carrie’s reaction? Don’t worry, we’ve included that in our roundup, too.

:: USA Today said with Underwood starring, the musical “wasn’t very good.” “The quality of Underwood’s singing voice is not the problem. It’s that she doesn’t know how to use that voice to sing in character,” the paper argued. “The strength of the songs and of her own vocal talents pulled her through when she was singing. It was the speaking that did her in: The eyes went blank, the voice went flat, and Maria turned to wood.” Oof.

:: Time asked, “How do you solve a problem like Carrie Underwood?” and believed the show “was so cringe-worthy that it was at least fun to watch.” The writer described Underwood’s face at one point looking “like an emoticon for being constipated, if such a thing existed.”

:: People posited “her voice never had much distinction or strength, and her acting even less… What’s necessary, perhaps even more than a great voice, are a presence, theatricality and personality to make the [Maria] part more than it is. In that regard, Underwood, despite her blonde wholesome sunniness, was miscast.”

:: The AP critic lauded everyone involved for avoiding any mishaps, before zeroing in on Underwood. “The only real problem was the real reason most people tuned in: Carrie Underwood, an American Idol winner and country music star, sang well as Maria but her acting inexperience was laid bare. She had zero chemistry with her love interest and lacked any intensity or shading. Deer in headlights have emoted more. How do you solve a problem like Maria, indeed.”

:: THR was rough on the country star as well. “While Underwood can deliver the songs — I’m sure that anyone with the desire to plunge themselves into the American Idol ringer has been singing those songs for most of her life — she doesn’t acquit herself so well when it comes to the carrying the emotional weight of the production… Underwood nails the look of a virginal almost-nun, but goes no deeper than that. Blank stares and placid smiles.”

:: Variety also focused on the romance issues. “The Maria-Von Trapp relationship has its problematic aspects under the best of circumstances, and Underwood and Moyer didn’t come close to threading that needle. Given the absence of chemistry, one could be forgiven for hoping he’d lapse into True Blood mode and simply bite her neck.”

:: Yahoo had some positive things to say, though! “The scenes with the kids were some of the best, and Underwood seemed most comfortable in them,” adding, “Considering this version of The Sound of Music was the first live TV musical in 50 years, it was quite a feat.”

:: And Taste of Country was down with it! “Underwood grew stronger through the first hour… and by the time the children gathered for the bedroom thunderstorm scene, she seemed as comfortable in front of the television cameras as she did beneath the hot lights of the Blown Away Tour in 2013.

:: As for Carrie herself? She’s got a response to all the bad reviews:


What did you think of Carrie’s performance? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!


  1. Mimi

    Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Carrie Underwood in Sound of Music. Notwithstanding the “humming” noise present at times – this was a success, in my humble opinion, for good television entertainment. It was not intended to represent Julie Andrews in the movie…..but, rather, a variation of the stage play starring Mary Martin (so I understand) and I would hope to see more of this type production for television in the future. Bravo to the entire cast and crew!!

  2. Carla Amstutz

    All you arm-chair critics as well as any ‘professional’ reviewers
    need to step back on your condemnation of the performances
    given in this show, “The Sound of Music”. For heaven’s sake,
    it is a different piece of work from that accomplished by Julie
    Andrews. How difficult it must have been to stage a live
    presentation without the ‘do-overs’. Singing while being
    physically, actively engaged in any of the roles would cause many
    seasoned actors to be breathless…..not only Carrie Underwood.
    This presentation was truly a Cinderella type story with the novice
    actor playing a role nobody could grow into during a 3 hours
    stage-type presentation. This show was based entirely on the
    presentation by the actors without the gorgeous scenery surrounding
    Julie Andrews. In our household it was well-done throughout and
    although there was no ‘re-do’ in this live presentation any so-called
    errors the critics are pointing out were to put it simply, just as life!
    Great job to all involved and kudos for making this a live event.

    • Carla, staging a theatre production “without do-overs” happens in hundreds of theatres every single night! It’s not that difficult for professional theatre actors. Same response to your comment about singing and dancing at the same time. It’s called training, something that Carrie doesn’t have. Carrie Underwood is not an actor, that was painfully obvious and it affected the chemistry of the entire show, sadly. I give her credit for trying but her performance was not a good one. I hope that NBC will be more thoughtful in their casting if they’re doing more musicals in the future.

      • She was miscast. If she wants to Broadway, do Nelly Forbush from South Pacific. That role is more suitable for her voice. Leave Maria for an actual Lyric NON BELTING soprano.

      • Nikki

        Yes Eric…and each night live performances get to tweak for the next evening…in front of a hundred people, not a millions. KUDOS to all involved. I think it’s terrific that NBC devoted 3 hours of prime time to a musical and that Carrie Underwood was brave enough to completely step out of her comfort zone. Great job!

      • Erin – Yes they are professionals, that is their job. Give it a rest, this is Carrie’s first time and she got better as the show went on. I hope they do more of these, it’s was so much better than the crap that is on TV now. NIce for a family to be able to sit down with their children and watch TV.

  3. Gaelic Storm

    I think Carrie Underwood did a terrific job. People need to keep in mind this is just like a stage play only the cameras are rolling. I do believe the producers could have done better in casting the Captain. They needed a stronger character with a little more charisma. As for the children, it is never easy herding acting children and they pulled off a coup with the kids.

  4. Zork

    Glory to God, I couldn’t have said it better myself, except I was wishing for the time back. Agree with Time – such a train wreck, I actually watched more because it was so bad. Other actors seemed cast down to CU’s limited talent level. Exception: The nun that sang “Climb Every Mountain” truly nailed that beautiful and difficult song. (Enough so that her excellence underscored the uncomfortable contrast.) Still, I’m glad the money was spent on that production rather than “Khristmas with the Kardashians,” I suppose.

  5. Tony Chalupnik

    Kudos to Carrie Underwood and cast for a job well done!
    For the young singer to stretch her comfort zone and perform the role of Maria Von Trapp alone is a feat, and to do it live was overly impressive. Great job Carrie!
    I love The Sound of Music and have enjoyed it my entire life. Audra McDonald, You stopped the show with your beautiful performance of “Climb Every Mountain.” I was moved and leaned over to my wife to say, “There’s the show stopping performance for tonight!” There were a few cringe moments, Carrie almost slipping as she sang in the opening number, Yikes! That’s live TV.
    Bravo cast and crew! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
    As a side note, It was refreshing to actually watch a program in prime time that did not have a corpse on a slab to open the show.

  6. Sandy

    All the big media critics of Carrie Underwood should be ashamed of yourselves. You just didn’t get her natural innocence. If you think there wasn’t enough charisma in her romance with the Captain, remember it takes two to tango. And she was marvelous with the children. Come on folks. I am sure Julie Andrews would sincerely laud her LIVE performance!

    • It really, really does take two to tango. Acting HAS to be give and take. Even the most experienced actor will have trouble playing off someone who is not giving them anything TO play off of!
      Personally, I think this was unfair to Carrie that they let her go on stage with a cast full of veteran actors. Watch ‘No Way to Stop It’ again, the clip is on youtube. Watch how those 3 actors play off of each other, and how they listen to each other and react to the subtext of what their fellow actors are saying. THAT’S acting. And then compare Stephen’s performance in that scene to his performance in the scenes with Carrie.
      Carrie should have never been put in that situation – if they really wanted her, they should have started her with acting lessons now and done it next year. That is the BARE MINIMUM amount of time it would take to put her anywhere near the others.

  7. Pittsburgh fan

    I loved the show! While Carrie Underwood did not prove to be a great actress, for me her voice made me forget everything else. I was also impressed with Laura Benanti as Elsa Schraeder (she is a beautiful woman and has a beautiful voice), Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess, Christian Borle as Max Detweiler (I wish that Smash hadn’t been canceled!), and Michael Campayno as Rolf. But the person I liked the best was Ariane Rinehart as Liesl. She was fabulous, and I hope that she has a long career on Broadway. Good job, everyone!

    • Paul

      Christian Borle as Max Detweiler drove me to distraction. I’ve played the part of Uncle Max before in community and high school theatre. Oftentimes when I see a seasoned professional play a part, I will look at them in awe and wonder at all the things they brought to the part which amateur me never thought of. It was the opposite with Christian Borle. He didn’t make me laugh once and I found myself yelling at the screen every time he blew another punch line. I did prefer him to Richard Haydn in the movie, who was similarly unfunny, but with Haydn I assumed it was because the movie script writers had robbed him of most of the funny lines from the play.

      • Frances

        I absolutely agree – if there was “no chemistry” I would not fault Carrie Underwood with that – Christian was so busy being third reich, that he forgot to be human – even at the marriage scene, he was visibly uncomfortable – My three cents worth says that’s where the lack of cohesiveness lay – Kudos to all – a fabulous undertaking and for all the complaints, how many turned it off before the end??? hmmmm????

    • me

      I thoroughly enjoyed the show….but then again …I wasn’t looking for fault. I would watch it again,and I applaud her singing and acting.

  8. Nancy

    I’m a big Sound of Music fan as well as Julie Andrews fan and found the live show last nght well worth my time. The songs were great and Carrie Underwood did a a very good job there however, I felt the acting all around was a little stiff, not just Carrie. I figure there just aren’t that many people who can both sing and act well anymore. Having said that, I would watch it again. Way to go Carrie!

  9. Sandtrucker

    I loved it. However, the captain mis-cast. and a black Mother in the 1930′s? NOT.s

  10. Phyllis

    tuned in and was certainly glad I did. Carrie was just great..this was not a movie-it was live theatre …much harder without the “cut” let’s do that again with more…….She should be proud It was a Job well done!

  11. Lexington fan

    While I agree that Underwood could have had better rapport with Moyer, I was pleasantly surprised by her acting. There were some strong moments when her character’s personality shone through quite realistically. Personally, I had more of a problem with Moyer who seemed hammy to me. A few others were also off the mark coming across as theatric rather than genuine. I liked some of the details and nuances that gave better context than the movie but wondered why the director retained some segments. Singing Favorite Things in the convent instead of with the children during the thunderstorm just came across as wrong and unbelievable. Overall, a fine effort that I still enjoyed a lot — perhaps a 7.5 on a 10 scale. (The movie is a 9.5.) Carrie performed well (not great) but I thought some of the other castmembers and directing made it less than it could have been. My two cents, thanks!

  12. Jana Healey

    I loved it! I did not make comparisons, I enjoyed a production for what it was worth. I applaud the cast for a job well done….

  13. dustien

    Loved it~! I do think the scene when Maria and the Captain realized that they both loved was rather “matter of fact” then Eureka and that was a disappointment, but the rest of the show impressed me. I especially liked when the little Nazi youth didn’t give the family away when they were hiding in the abbey like he did in the original with Julie Andrews.

    So over all, for a 3 hour musical live, I watched from start to finish and except for Dish Networks pink screen of death preventing me from seeing the scene where they sing at the festival and escape to the Abbey, it was an enjoyable way to pass the time. Good Job All!

  14. dustien

    As far as Black Mother in the Abbey, this was Austria, not ignorantly racist 1930′s America. I think McDonald was amazing. I’d never heard of Audra McDonald, but am sure glad to have met her now.

  15. I watched this musical, and was happy at first because I remember being a child and watching RH Cinderella on tv….well after the show I was left luke warm…love Carrie U.,, but felt the same as the critics, her acting was bad…however the highlight for me was Audra M., sorry Carrie, I feel that NBC should have picked a singer/actress….I get it they are trying to appeal to a younger crowd but to be honest I am in my 50′s and was pissed I missed Vampire Diaries… IMO sorry.

  16. Rob Gordon

    Have to give Carrie Underwood an award for bravery and her vocals were good. But this production made me appreciate even more what amazing actors Julie Andrews and Chris Plummer are and how really good the movie version is. They clearly provided much more spark and chemistry than was evident last night, I will admit that a movie has a lot of resources to make showbiz magic, but I have been to enough sizzling musical theater productions to realize that this show just didn’t quite work. There were bright spots: Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, and Ariane Rinehart were all captivating. Most of the rest of the show seemed forced, wooden, and awkward and made me uncomfortable too often. A for effort, B for execution, but C- for dramatic impact.

  17. Pushindazees

    Carrie Underwood can sing but thats the end of her talent. She has never been able to act her way out of a box, not even as a presenter at red carpet functions, so whoever had the brilliant idea of putting her in a live action stage play should have their head examined, as should anyone who went along with it.

    • Neither would any of the other actors without training. They have all had years of training. Wow just because someone disagrees with you and liked it needs their head examined. I give Carrie credit for what she did.

  18. Jan

    All the critics are right. Carrie can’t act. Stephen Moyer was not a good captain either. Music was great. I have always loved the music. She can sing. But I enjoyed watching anyway. I think they should do this more, but with better actors. I would have watched it without Carrie Underwood. She can’t act at all. Either you have it or you don’t. She was like a wooden post. Did she blink? She was scared to death. I don’t blame her but I applaud her for trying. This was a tough play to do. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to replace Julie Andrews. She was just an awesome Maria. The no chemistry between Maria and the Captain didnt help any either. Did they even know each other was there? Didn’t seem like it. So falling in love for them was kind of weird. Wasn’t believable.

  19. I wonder how many retakes it took to get the remake (with Julie Andrews) right? I know she wasn’t perfect the first time she did it. Retake, edits, that is what makes movies good. I like the remake of the original with Julie Andrews but I give Carrie credit for doing what she did.

  20. Steven

    I think that Carrie Underwood should stick to country and leave acting to the “big girls” She went from line to line as stiff as a board with no emotional ties and I felt like I was watching a bad High School Musical. This isn’t something you try and if it works it works and if not then not. Your talkin big bucks here. I don’t know why anyone would risk doing this with a non actress singer!

  21. Rennah

    Carrie Under”WOOD”. She can well enough but without passion and she is not a natural actor in even the smallest way. It was worth watching to laugh at during commercial to other shows. She gives “wooden” a new meaning.

  22. Dennis

    As a former teacher of TV Production, the challenge to pull this off must have been formidable…wow! Kudos to all involved!! Casting was very well done except for the Mother Superior. A very talented woman, but to put a black woman in a convent in Austria in the late ’30′s is absurd! Thanks NBC for doing this for all of us! :)

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