The Sound of Music Live! brought in some much-needed massive ratings for NBC on Thursday night. According to early numbers from the network, 18.5 million total viewers sat down to watch American Idol alumna Carrie Underwood step into Julie Andrews’ iconic role of Maria Von Trapp and True Blood star Stephen Moyer take on the part of her boss turned husband, Captain Von Trapp.
In the key 18–49 demographic, the three-hour live take on the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical delivered an early 4.6 rating. As far as the demo goes, it’s NBC’s best Thursday (sports events excluded) since the series finale of ER aired in April 2009. The TV musical also tied CBS’s unbeatable Big Bang Theory in the demo to win the evening.
The reviews for the reported $9 million production, however, were less stellar than the ratings. Though critics praised veteran Broadway stars Laura Benanti and Audra McDonald’s performances as Elsa (Captain Von Trapp’s almost-fiancé) and Mother Abbess, respectively, the reaction to Underwood was tepid, to say the least. “To say that Underwood was no Julie Andrews is one of life’s greatest certainties,” wrote The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon, while Marc Bernardin of The Hollywood Reporter noted that “Underwood can deliver the songs … she doesn’t acquit herself so well when it comes to the carrying the emotional weight of the production.”
As far as the production was concerned, Brian Lowery of Variety wrote, “For the most part [the co-directors] couldn’t make the story sing between the musical numbers, and the tingle one can get from a live theatrical experience didn’t materialize as filtered through the remove of TV.” And AP’s Mark Kennedy noted, “It was supposed to be spectacular, appointment TV in this era of DVRs and binge watching. It’s unclear if this was the breakthrough that will start a whole new musical revolution.”