Laura Benanti on her ‘Sound of Music’ journey from Maria onstage to Elsa in TV version (Exclusive Video)

Fifteen years ago, Laura Benanti made her Broadway debut as Maria, the nun turned nanny, in an acclaimed revival of “The Sound of Music.” Last Christmas, she tackled the part of Elsa Schrader, the Countess who courts Captain von Trapp but loses him to Maria, in the live television version. In our recent webcam chat (watch below), she said she welcomed the chance to be a part of this event that starred Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer as the would-be lovers as well as six-time Tony champ Audra McDonald as the Reverend Mother: “We rehearsed it like a play, for seven weeks. And then we rehearsed for 10 days, two weeks with the cameras.” 

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In the 1965 film version, which won Best Picture, three-time Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker played this part as more villainess than vamp. And the two songs for the Countess were cut. For Benanti, these tunes tell us so much about Elsa.

The first, “How Can Love Survive” is a duet with her pal Max, where she bemoans her single status. And the second, “No Way to Stop It,” sees Elsa and Max trying to convince the Captain that he must work with the Nazis who have taken over Austria. As the actress explained, “politics came between them … she wanted him to keep his head down.” The song gave Elsa a chance to say, “Why are you shaking things up? You are making things difficult for your family, you are making things difficult for me. Just lay low, calm down, this will all be over soon.” 

Over the years, Benanti has reaped four Tony bids for Best Featured Actress (Musical). The first of these was in 2000 for “Swing,” a musical revue while the second came two years later for a revival of “Into the Woods.” That one was bittersweet as an injury forced her out of the production and caused her to be the subejct of snipes and gossip that caused her to question her future on Broadway. She won with nomination #3 in 2008 for her performance in “Gypsy” opposite the powerhouse that is Patti Lupone and saw this as a way of the Broadway community to say welcome home. Her most recent came in 2011 for a comic turn in the musical version of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” 

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Will Benanti reap a bid in the competitive TV Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actress race at this year’s Emmys? After watching the webcam chat, vote using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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