Last night's show wasn't a re-telling of the more well-known film version, but was instead the stage version, meaning that for fans of the film, the story was abbreviated, the songs were in a different order and some new songs were added.
To ensure that things went smoothly in the live broadcast, which reportedly cost as much as $9 million, the producers stacked the deck with many of Broadway's best and brightest and, of course, Carrie Underwood in the role of Maria, bravely taking on her first major acting role in a live format. The result was Broadway aficionados blurting out things like this on Twitter while many of us scratched our heads and waited for the American Idol winner to return to the screen:
KRISTINE NIELSEN!!!!!!! #SoundOfMusic— Adam G (@adam807) December 6, 2013
The show started with Broadway legend (and former Private Practice star) Audra McDonald setting the bar very high as Mother Superior of the Abbey where Maria is hoping to earn her wimple as a nun. Unfortunately Maria isn't very good at being a nun and is constantly singing and late to mass, which resulted in the best out-of-context line of the entire event, i.e. Maria telling Mother Superior: "I was on my knees most of the night because I was late." We've all been there, sister.
Will Hart / NBC / Getty
Captain Von Trapp runs a very organized home and has dog-trained his children to respond to whistle blows. It soon becomes clear that The Sound of Music may have inspired 50 Shades of Grey as Captain Von Trapp barks, "The first rule of this house is discipline!" Then he orders Maria to call him Captain and she returns all his presents. Wonder what Maria's inner goddess thought of that?
While the role of Captain Von Trapp was originated by the incomparable Christopher Plummer, Moyer did an excellent job playing the uptight Captain with a whistle around his neck and a stick, well, you know where, although some people found him slightly off-putting.
Mr Von Trap is strange. Not that I have 100% credibility— mia farrow (@MiaFarrow) December 6, 2013
Captain Von Trapp's eldest daughter Liesl (played by television newcomer Ariane Rinehart) is wooed by telegram delivery man boy Rolfe, who shows up in shorts to warn Liesl that her father might be in trouble and to sing a sexist song chock-full of SAT words like "roué" and "cad." This, of course, is sure to warm the cockles of any lass's heart. It's hard to take a proto-Nazi in shorts especially seriously, though.
Everyone who has seen the musical (or any romance movie ever) knows that the Captain and Maria end up together, but there will be obstacles to overcome, including the fact that Maria wants to be a nun and that The Captain is involved with the dashing Baroness Elsa Schraeder, played by the incomparable Laura Benanti (and her wig). Benanti's Baroness was a sly, side-eye thrower with a knack for the double entendre: " ... and I smoke a BIG cigar," she said to the Captain with a straight face. She should also be nominated for a Tony for her snort laugh when Maria told her she was going back to the Abbey, and perhaps an extra Tony nod for "Best Exit" when she slid off into the sunset.
Things really kicked off for the Captain and Maria when he returned from his trip with the Baroness in tow and Maria hollered at him for not paying enough attention to his children. She pointed out that Liesl was growing up quickly and that "Kurt is sensitive," which undoubtedly resonated with the target audience. Then everybody sang. Again.
Will Hart / NBC
Fraulein Maria returned to Von Trapp Manor wearing a suit borrowed from Stewardess Barbie only to discover that while the children missed her, the Captain had moved on and was planning on marrying the b-word Baroness. Luckily that plan didn't last long once the Captain realized that the Baroness would never hike over the mountains to escape the Nazis (nor had any idea how to make play clothes out of curtains). So the Baroness left, hopefully to start working on the spin-off starring her and Max Detweiler (played by the always delightful Smash star Christian Borle).
Two minutes later, the Captain and Maria were kissing – even though she never sat on a pinecone in the stage version of the show. While we're used to seeing Stephen Moyer sink his teeth into the ladies, the Captain harmonized with Maria about "there you are there standing there loving me," and resisted the urge to bite her neck.
Elsa OUT!— Laura Benanti (@LauraBenanti) December 6, 2013
Then the Captain and Maria got married in the church as former nuns are wont to do. Although Maria may not have appreciated being sent down the aisle to a choral rendition of “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?” (Marry her off to the eligible land-owning vampire down the road, of course!) Once Maria had that ring, she immediately started spouting nonsense. "I no longer think of myself first anymore, I think of him," she mused, a sentiment we can only hope lasted as long as it took her to walk back down the aisle.
While the happy couple was off on their honeymoon, the Nazis took over Austria. As soon as they returned, Rolfe (still in shorts) delivered a telegram and the Von Trapps knew they must escape before the Captain was shipped off to war. Their only path to freedom? Through the Salzburg Festival, festooned in more Swastikas then normally seen on primetime and a theater packed with Nazis and sympathizers. Their only weapon? The power of song.
The fact that this hasn't been made into a videogame yet is amazing.
On NBC, the Salzburg Festival is judged by Cee-Lo, Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera.— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) December 6, 2013
After singing many more songs, the family escaped to the Abbey, where the nuns sheltered them from the Nazis. They were almost caught when big-mouthed baby Gretl outed them, and Rolfe (now clad in Nazi shorts) turned his flashlight on them. Luckily the sight of doe-eyed Leisl's plaintive face melted his heart just long enough to allow them to escape into the mountains.
All's well that ends well. And in case you were wondering what happened to the Von Trapp family, they make cheese in Vermont now.
And that, kids, is how the Donner party happened. #SOML— Damian Holbrook (@TVGMDamian) December 6, 2013