Carrie Underwood’s underwhelming performance in The Sound of Music has exploded all over the internet in the last few days, and with good reason. She sang a role where the expectation is Julie Andrews and Mary Martin. And she sang it like a country singer with little acting training.
The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Tweeting
On the one hand, it took great courage for her to perform her first musical theatre role on live television for a major network with millions of viewers. I certainly wouldn’t want my sad performance as a chorister in my first musical, Guys and Dolls, to be seen by anyone. Ever. Let alone to be seen under the intense scrutiny of the interwebs.
But she, and her agents/advisors/etc thought it was a good idea, and went ahead and did it. Now, had it been something like Nine to Five, or Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, or even Oklahoma I think everyone would have applauded her efforts. She may have even been less stilted and uncomfortable with dialogue in shows that have music in a genre with which she is familiar.
Again, she went ahead and did it. One of the best known musicals of the 20th century, performed in the past by some of the best known and best loved performers in the genre. You can’t ignore the expectations of those genres, no matter how famous you are for something. Especially for a completely different genre.
Which brings me to Underwood’s response. Her tweets of praying for her critics were childish at best, and prideful at worst.
Welcome to live theatre, Carrie. The ever devoted audience to musical theatre as a genre are not mean. They have their tastes, and their expectations, which are built on over a hundred years of American musical theatre tradition. And you didn’t meet them.
I am what is known as a “crossover” artist–I sing in both opera and musical theatre. I would be appallingly bad were I to sing one of Underwood’s songs, or any country song for that matter. If I sang a country song, in the style that I was trained to sing, people would laugh me off the stage. If I did so with the style of acting expected in opera or musical theatre, it would be even more laughable.
A bad review is hard. Lots of bad reviews are harder. Some days, you get up in the morning, and the people who love you hide the newspaper from you. And it sucks. Being fodder for internet trolls is even worse.
But that doesn’t mean Carrie Underwood should never do a musical again. Just maybe not one so high profile. And some acting classes wouldn’t hurt. The best performers continue to train well past the time when they’re famous for their work. In the meantime, I think she ought to familiarize herself with the great musicals and musical theatre performers who have won the hearts of theatre lovers. And to the same extent, so should the people casting these things.
To the American public who considers me a snob for being an expert in my field who has trained for many years to get there and who wants works like The Sound of Music to be done in a particular way, just…no.
Wanting something to be stylistically correct is not snobish. If you disagree, I refer to the above statement about me singing country in my opera voice. I’d make a video, but I don’t want to become the next Twitter sensation.