TV Q&A: 'Sound of Music' casting drew on talent

  • Article by: RICH HELDENFELS , Akron Beacon Journal
  • Updated: February 9, 2014 - 2:00 PM
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Audra McDonald, left, and Carrie Underwood starred in NBC’s live “The Sound of Music.”

Q: Why was Audra McDonald even cast in that beautiful “The Sound of Music” show? She might have a nice voice, but she is black. A black nun in Nazi-occupied Austria wouldn’t have much of a chance. She was miscast.

A: Sigh. I take it that you had no problem that Carrie Underwood, an Oklahoman with a still noticeable accent, was playing a governess in Nazi-occupied Austria.

I can safely guess that it didn’t worry you when women, including Mary Martin, played a boy in “Peter Pan.” (Martin, a native Texan, also played Maria in the original Broadway version of “The Sound of Music.”) Otherwise, you might be disappointed this December when NBC pre­sents a live “Pan” telecast.

Stage productions — like many TV shows and films — aren’t always meant to be realistic. (Look again at the sets in NBC’s “The Sound of Music.”) It’s a matter of getting a great performance. Mexican-American Anthony Quinn played “Zorba the Greek.” Vanessa Williams co-starred in a TV version of “Bye Bye Birdie,” and Brandy Norwood played Cinderella. There have been versions of “The Odd Couple” where both leads were black, or women. Do we really need to argue whether that was realistic?

To be sure, there have been plenty of times when casting across racial lines embraces awful stereotypes (Mickey Rooney was cringe-­worthy as a Japanese man in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”). But McDonald, as I noted in an earlier column, is an award-winning singer and actress, and she was widely praised for her work in “The Sound of Music.” That should be enough.

Other work awaits ‘SVU’ actor

Q: What happened to Stabler on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”?

A: Christopher Meloni, who played Elliot Stabler, left the NBC drama in 2011 after 12 seasons. He has gone on to other TV work such as “True Blood” and movies such as “42” and “Man of Steel.” He has a new series, the comedy “Surviving Jack,” coming to Fox on March 27. He plays a ’90s dad who has to take over more parenting duties after his wife starts law school.

Matt Damon does commercials

Q: Is that Matt Damon doing the voiceover in the TD Ameritrade commercial about the chef who ends up owning his own restaurant?

A: Not only in that ad. According to Reuters, Damon signed a multiyear deal in 2012 to be the voice of the brokerage, succeeding Sam Waterston (“Law & Order”).

Send questions about pop culture (with name and address) to rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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