Laura Benanti Q&A: ‘The Sound of Music’
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, 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."
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."