Not only was this classic Rodgers & Hammerstein score popular in our classrooms, it was popular in my South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. Did you ever see the 1991 movie, Boyz n the Hood? That was the community of my youth. That's where I grew up. Several homes on our block had at least one Rodgers & Hammerstein soundtrack mixed in with the jazz and Motown albums. Why? Because the great Rodgers & Hammerstein shows musically shouted down racial bigotry, religious intolerance and social class barriers. Look at South Pacific, The King and I, and Carousel. Our minority families connected to their message. The Sound of Music was no exception. The movie, Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1965, came out at a time when we needed it most. This was just two years after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a tragedy that shocked and gripped the country with an almost inexpressible grief. This movie, this optimistic and colorful family fare, helped us heal from the deep emotional scars of 1963. It did not go to television until several years after it won the Oscar. It would go back into the 20th Century Fox vaults, get re-released in later years and make even more money.
1965's The Sound of Music got its first network TV airing in 1976.
Maria tenderly sings, "Perhaps I had a wicked childhood, perhaps I had a miserable youth. But somewhere in that wicked, miserable past..there must have been a moment of truth..." That is another important revelation about Maria.
Also, Carrie Underwood is a winner from the modern TV phenomenon of auditions before a panel of judges as the new weekly variety show. American Idol, NBC's The Voice and America's Got Talent -- they all remind me of theater critic Addison DeWitt's line in the film classic All About Eve: "That's all television is, my dear. Nothing but auditions."
There is some great talent on those shows. There's also some not-so-great talent. And there's talent that could be great if it was original. The song "At Last" was written for a 1940s 20th Century Fox musical called Orchestra Wives. It was first heard in that movie. Over a decade later, Etta James gave it a different and fabulous rhythm & blues interpretation. Since then, just about every person who sings that standard as an audition number copies Etta James. From early Christina Aguilera to contestants on those shows I mentioned, if you hear that she or he will sing "At Last," you can bet you'll hear a replica not only of the Etta James delivery, but also her arrangement. The same slower tempo which, by the way, was a slower tempo than its debut in the 1942 film. Rarely does anyone ever change "At Last" up with a Latin beat or a jazz arrangement. It's always an imitation of the 1960 Etta James recording of that 1942 hit song. On those audition shows, we've seen many young people who are gifted with big voices. However, they often substitute vocal gymnastics for true interpretation and real individuality. They ignore the tale of the song. Go to YouTube and do this: Listen to the Ray Charles recording of "Come Rain or Come Shine" with its rhythm and blues arrangement. Next, listen to Sarah Vaughan's sublime 1950 light jazz vocal of it. Then listen to Judy Garland's driving Carnegie Hall concert rendition of "Come Rain or Come Shine." She's like a voodoo priestess casting an urgent love spell. Each version is a winner, each one has a different arrangement, each one has an artist connecting to the story of the lyrics.
Actress/singer Rebecca Luker played Maria in a Broadway revival of The Sound of Music. Here is a master class example of how to take a famous song closely associated with another artist and make it your own by finding your own original interpretation and inner life. She's not copying Julie Andrews. Rebecca Luker's performance is Heaven-sent, one of inspired acting and singing. It shimmers. You need to hear this.
To me, that NBC banner looks more like an ad for St. Pauli Girl beer.