NEW YORK (AP) — Maria, former would-be nun, is about to get married.

Starring as Maria in NBC's new version of "The Sound of Music," Carrie Underwood is clad in her own T-shirt and leggings plus a wedding veil as she reverently steps through the bare-bones Manhattan rehearsal space while three dozen castmates, on their feet as if in church, sing "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

Underwood's procession ends at the "altar" (marked by a music stand) to join her groom, Capt. von Trapp, played by jeans-and-sweater-sporting Stephen Moyer.

During this preliminary run-through a few weeks ago, much work clearly remained to get "The Sound of Music Live!" ready for airtime on Dec. 5 (8 p.m. EST), when it, along with everyone involved, will make history: More than a half-century has passed since a broadcast network has dared to mount a full-scale musical for live TV.

It would have been risky enough revisiting this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic on any terms. But this is no remake of the not-to-be-tampered-with Julie Andrews juggernaut, declares Neil Meron. Meron and longtime partner Craig Zadan are the telecast's Oscar-winning executive producers.

Instead, "The Sound of Music Live!" is the 1959 Broadway musical reimagined for TV, then given extra crackle with a live presentation.

Meron's message: Everybody knows "The Sound of Music," or thinks they do from the 1965 film nearly everyone has seen. But relatively few fans are acquainted with the stage original. Drawing from it, "The Sound of Music Live!" is meant to feel familiar, yet at the same time come across as new and different.

Consider: Moyer with castmates Laura Benanti (as Baroness Elsa Schrader) and Christian Borle (as Max Detweiler) are rehearsing a couple of weeks later a saucy song titled "How Can Love Survive?" This song will be brand-new to most viewers of the telecast — it was dropped from the movie.

"Plenty of nothing you haven't got. How can love survive?" Max tunefully teases the wealthy Elsa, who, in her posh relationship with her fiance, Capt. von Trapp, can never count theirs among "all the famous love affairs (where) lovers starve and snuggle."

This number, sung to an instrumental track recorded by a 40-piece orchestra, takes place on the sumptuous von Trapp terrace, complete with a fountain and a panoramic view of the Alps.

There are still no costumes — at the moment, Borle is wearing jeans and a Batman T-shirt — but by now the entire production has redeployed to a cavernous Long Island, N.Y., soundstage.

Grumman Studios' Stage 3, with square footage rivaling a football field's, is now home to the terrace, along with five neighboring sets evoking pre-World War II Austria including the abbey, a festival site draped with huge swastikas and the summit over which (spoiler alert) Maria, the Captain and his seven children pass to flee the Nazis at the musical's conclusion.

It is for this soaring finish that Audra McDonald reprises "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," the breathtaking anthem that Mother Abbess introduces as she sends Maria into the world and into the von Trapp household.

"In that scene, Mother Abbess is giving Maria tough love, kicking her out of the abbey," says McDonald. "But Carrie is so moving and so sweet, my challenge is to not cry when I sing it."

When she sings it, McDonald is fully capable of bringing to tears everyone within earshot. She is a classically trained soprano, a Tony- and Grammy-winning singer and stage actress who, for good measure, appeared for four seasons on ABC's "Private Practice."

Though best known as a vampire on HBO's "True Blood," Moyer, too, is a theater veteran. Last summer he returned to what he calls his first love, the musical stage, after 18 years' absence for a production of "Chicago" at the Hollywood Bowl. Then he reported for work on "The Sound of Music Live!"

Borle, known to viewers from NBC's musical drama "Smash," boasts Broadway credits including "Legally Blonde: The Musical" and "Monty Python's Spamalot," and won a Tony for the comedy "Peter and the Starcatcher."

Laura Benanti, who starred last season on NBC's Matthew Perry comedy "Go On," has appeared in the Broadway musicals "Into the Woods" and "Nine," and scored a Tony for her role as Gypsy Rose Lee in the 2008 Broadway revival of "Gypsy."

And then there's Carrie Underwood. Despite her status as a multiplatinum country music superstar who rose to fame as the winner of "American Idol" in 2005, at first glance she might seem something of a wild card in the "Sound of Music" cast: She has never acted before.

"Carrie is one of the bravest artists we've ever worked with," says Meron, who notes that she arrived two weeks before the production's six-week rehearsal began with her lines fully memorized, to get a head start.

"Every day," she says during a break, "I feel like I discover new things and how to go places in acting that I didn't think I could go."

Even if she's a drama neophyte as she faces her "Sound of Music" trial by fire, Underwood, by one measure, is the cast's old hand: No one knows live TV, and its pressures, like she does.

"But this time, there's no chance of me being voted out," she laughs. "I'm here to stay."

As she speaks, it's a scant 16 days until the broadcast. By week's end, cameras (as many as a dozen) and tons of other broadcast equipment would be brought in. In the parking lot, TV trucks would join the city of dressing-room trailers.

During Thanksgiving week, the ensemble is rehearsing in full costume.

Already, the cast has recorded a "Sound of Music Live!" album, due for release Dec. 3. A home-video edition of the broadcast goes on sale Dec. 17.

If graced with good ratings, this won't be the last such musical event staged live for TV, says Meron.

And in any case it ends a drought that had persisted, in effect, since the birth of video tape made live TV unnecessary and, apart from news and sportscasts, nearly extinct. Helping close out that live-TV era: "Cinderella," performed and aired by CBS on March 31, 1957, and starring 21-year-old Julie Andrews.

A made-for-TV musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, "Cinderella" was one of many collaborations by these Broadway titans that began with their pioneering 1943 musical "Oklahoma!" and continued through "The Sound of Music" 16 years later, with Mary Martin creating the role of Maria. It ran for more than 1,400 performances and won five Tonys, including a trophy for best musical.

"There's an inevitability to what they do," says Borle, when asked what continues to set Rodgers and Hammerstein apart. "The material is so lovely, you just show up and try to do it justice."

That's what he and his co-stars plan to do the night of Dec. 5, for three hours start to finish, with no reshoots and no postproduction fixes to fall back on.

"There's an excitement about that," Benanti says. "It feels dangerous. Anything could happen!

"Even if you're only curious," she adds invitingly, "you should watch."

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier.

___

Online:


http://www.nbc.com/sound-of-music

Loading Slideshow...
  • "Ironside"

    In the gritty world of the NYPD, no one’s tougher than Det. Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood, “The Event,” “In Treatment”). He’s a fearless cop who won’t stop until the guilty are brought to justice. He and his trusted, handpicked team of specialists — Virgil (Pablo Schreiber, “The Wire” “Lights Out”), Holly (Spencer Grammer, “Greek,” “As the World Turns”) and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe, “Smash,” “Ugly Betty”), as well as his former partner Gary (Brent Sexton, “The Killing”) and boss, Det. Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi, “Sons of Anarchy”) — will do whatever it takes to solve New York’s most difficult and notorious crimes. As a detective, Ironside’s instincts are second to none, and those around him have to stay on their toes if they want to keep up because when his spine was shattered by a bullet two years ago, Ironside swore he’d never let a wheelchair slow him down.

  • "Ironside"

  • "Ironside"

  • "Ironside"

  • "The Michael J. Fox Show"

    Look who’s making the news again. One of New York’s most beloved news anchors, Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox, “Spin City,” “Family Ties”), put his career on hold to spend more time with his family and focus on his health after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But five years later, with the kids busy growing up and Mike growing restless, it just might be time for him to get back to work. Having never wanted Mike to leave in the first place, his old boss Harris Green (Wendell Pierce, “The Wire,” “Treme”) jumped at the chance to get him back on TV. The trick, as it’s always been, was to make Mike think it was his idea. Now the plan is in motion and Mike will be back to juggling home, family, and career — just like the old days, but only better.

  • "The Michael J. Fox Show"

  • "The Michael J. Fox Show"

  • "The Michael J. Fox Show"

  • "Sean Saves the Word"

    Sean (Sean P. Hayes, “Will & Grace”) is a divorced gay dad who juggles a lot — his successful but demanding career, offbeat employees, pushy mom Lorna (Linda Lavin, “Alice”) and weekends with his teenage daughter, Ellie (Sami Isler). So when she moves in full-time, it’s a whole new world. Never one to do anything halfway, Sean’s intent on being the best dad ever, so he loads up on parenting how-to books and plans Pinterest-worthy family dinners. But it seems his company’s new owner has decided Sean and his team should work longer hours, putting a damper on his homemaking plans and throwing a kink in Sean’s perfectly constructed work/life balance. Ellie sees this development as a plus. She loves her dad, but he’s clearly going overboard. From keeping his boss happy, employees motivated and enduring his mother’s tactless “advice” to raising a smart, grounded and healthy kid, it’s going to be a growing experience, to say the least. But if anyone can handle it all, it’s Sean. Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”), Lindsay Sloane (“Weeds”) and Echo Kellum (“Ben and Kate”) also star.

  • "Sean Saves The World"

  • "Sean Saves The World"

  • "Sean Saves The World"

  • "The Blacklist"

    For decades, ex-government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader, “The Office,” “Boston Legal”) has been one of the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives. Brokering shadowy deals for criminals across the globe, Red was known by many as “The Concierge of Crime.” Now, he’s mysteriously surrendered to the FBI with an explosive offer: He will help catch a long-thought-dead terrorist, Ranko Zamani, under the condition that he speaks only to Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone, “Law & Order: Los Angeles”), an FBI profiler fresh out of Quantico. For Liz, it’s going to be one hell of a first day on the job. What follows is a twisting series of events as the race to stop a terrorist begins. What are Red’s true intentions? Why has he chosen Liz, a woman with whom he seemingly has no connection? Does Liz have secrets of her own? Zamani is only the first of many on a list that Red has compiled over the years: a “blacklist” of politicians, mobsters, spies and international terrorists. He will help catch them all… with the caveat that Liz continues to work as his partner. Red will teach Liz to think like a criminal and “see the bigger picture”… whether she wants to or not. “The Blacklist” also stars are Diego Klattenhoff (“Homeland”), Harry Lennix (“Man of Steel”), Ryan Eggold (“90210”) and Ilfenesh Hadera (“Da Brick”).

  • "The Blacklist"

  • "The Blacklist"

  • "The Blacklist"

  • "Dracula"

    Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“The Tudors”) stars in this provocative new drama as one of the world’s most iconic characters. It’s the late 19th century and the mysterious Dracula (Rhys Meyers) has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He’s especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night — useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: He hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan… until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife. Victoria Smurfit (“About a Boy”), Thomas Kretschmann (“King Kong”), Jessica De Gouw (“Arrow”), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (“Mr. Selfridge”), Nonso Anozie (“Game of Thrones”) and Katie McGrath (“Merlin”) also star.

  • "Dracula"

  • "Dracula"

  • "Dracula"

  • "Welcome to the Family"

    Parents Dan Yoder (Mike O’Malley, “Glee,” “My Name Is Earl”) and wife Karina (Mary McCormack, “In Plain Sight,” “The West Wing”) find out on the day their daughter Molly (Ella Rae Peck (“Deception,” “Gossip Girl”) is graduating from high school with an acceptance to college, she announces she pregnant. Across town in East L.A., Junior Hernandez (Joseph Haro, “Glee,” “Awkward”), in the middle of his high school valedictorian speech, gets a text from girlfriend Molly that he’s going to be a daddy. Expectedly, Junior’s parents Miguel (Ricardo Chavira, “Desperate Housewives”) and Lisette (Justina Machado, “Six Feet Under,” “ER”) are also upset, as they now have Caucasians in the family. What follows is a crash course in culture blending as Molly and Junior decide they want to get married and, in doing so, bring together two very different families. The dads have the most difficult time reconciling while the moms take a softer approach to get to know one another. When the parents fully realize that their kids are serious about making a life together, the adults exhale and begin to come to terms with this new blended family and start to understand it will take, humor, love and tolerance to make it all work.

  • "Welcome to the Family"

  • "Welcome to the Family"

  • "Welcome to the Family"

  • "Undateable"

    When confident slacker Danny Beeman (Chris D’Elia, “Whitney,” “Glory Daze”) takes Justin (comedian Brent Morin) on as a roommate, Danny unwittingly inherits Justin’s group of romantically challenged friends. Seeing himself as the ultimate player, Danny decides to teach the crew (who he dubs “The Undateables”) everything he knows about “the game of love.” For their first lesson, Danny takes the guys to an event hosted by his sister, Leslie (Bianca Kajlich, “Rules of Engagement”), who is a single mom with dating difficulties of her own. At first, Danny’s advice seems to pay off big-time: The shy guy talks to a girl, the no-filter dude learns it’s never OK to ask a woman when she’s due, and his nebbish roommate, Justin, goes home with a mystery woman. It’s not until the next day that they figure out it was Leslie. Here’s a refreshing comedy about the “do’s,” “don’ts” and “duhs” of dating.

  • "Crisis"

    It’s field trip day for the students of Ballard High School, a place that educates the children of Washington, D.C.’s elite, top-of-their-industry CEOs, international diplomats, political power players and even the president’s son. But when their bus is ambushed on a secluded rural road, the teenagers and their chaperones are taken, igniting a national crisis. Now with some of the country’s most powerful parents at the mercy of one vengeful mastermind, the question arises: How far would you go and what would you become to ensure your child’s safe return? With so many parents and dignitaries put into play with nowhere to turn and no one to trust, this unthinkable scenario grows from the select families at risk to an entire nation at stake.

  • "Believe"

    Levitation, telekinesis, the ability to control nature and even predict the future… Since she was 2 years old, Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) has had gifts she could neither fully understand, nor control. Raised by a small group known as the “True Believers,” the orphaned girl has been safeguarded from harmful outsiders who would use her forces for personal gain. But now that she is 10, her powers have become stronger and the threat has grown more dangerous. With her life and future now in jeopardy, the “Believers” turn to the only person they see fit to be her full-time protector. That is, once they break him out of jail. Tate (Jake McLaughlin), a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate who’s lost his will, is initially reluctant until he witnesses one of her extraordinary abilities. Bo sees people for who they truly are… and who they may become. Tate and Bo begin their journey, one in which trust must be earned. Traveling from city to city, every place they stop and everyone they meet will be changed forever. But they’ll have to keep going to stay one step ahead of the sinister forces after Bo’s power… because it will take a miracle to keep them safe forever. “Believe” also stars Delroy Lindo and Kyle MacLachlan.

  • "The Family Guide"

    It’s not every family that’s brought closer together by divorce, but then again, the Fishers aren’t exactly typical. Take Mel Fisher (J.K. Simmons, “The Closer,” “Law & Order”), for example. Whether it’s chopping down trees, showing his daughter how to drive or playing football with his son, he’s never let the fact that he’s blind slow him down. Then there’s Joyce Fisher (Parker Posey, “Louie,” “For Your Consideration”), possibly the only mom in Pasadena to smoke a pipe. For her, divorce is like a second coming of age, a chance to be the teen she never was. Just ask ‘80s-obsessed teenage daughter Katie (Ava Deluca-Verley, “Southland”), whose clothes Joyce is always borrowing. At the center of all this is Henry (Eli Baker), the Fisher’s 11-year old son. Having always been his dad’s eyes, ears and wingman, Henry’s less than thrilled when Mel shows up with Elvis, a guide dog… which is also how Henry learns about the pending divorce. While reluctant to the changes this dog would bring, it’s through the adult Henry’s voice-over (Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”) that we find out his parent’s split would “allow all of us to finally discover who we needed to be.”

  • "About A Boy"

    Based on the best-selling Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “An Education”) novel, writer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) and director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Revolution”) present a different kind of coming-of-age story. Will Freeman (David Walton, “Bent,” “Perfect Couples”) lives a charmed existence as the ultimate man-child. After writing a hit song, he was granted a life of free time, free love and freedom from financial woes. He’s single, unemployed and loving it. So imagine his surprise when Fiona (Minnie Driver, “Good Will Hunting,” “Barney’s Version”), a needy single mom and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, “1600 Penn”), move in next door and disrupt his perfect world. When Marcus begins dropping by his home unannounced, Will’s not so sure about being a kid’s new best friend, until, of course, Will discovers that women find single dads irresistible. That changes everything and a deal is struck: Marcus will pretend to be Will’s son and, in return, Marcus is allowed to chill at Will’s house. Before he realizes it, Will starts to enjoy the visits and even finds himself looking out for the kid. In fact, this newfound friendship may very well teach him a thing or two that he never imagined possible — about himself and caring for others.

  • "Chicago PD"

    District 21 of the Chicago Police Department is made up of two distinctly different groups: The uniformed cops who patrol the beat and deal with street crimes, and the intelligence unit, the team that combats the city’s major offenses, such as organized crime, drug trafficking and high-profile murders. Leading the intelligence team is Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), a man not against skirting the law in the pursuit of justice. Demanding and tough, only those who can take the heat survive under Voight’s command. Take Det. Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), for example. Despite a troubled history with his boss, Dawson has ambitions of running the unit. If that means facing off against Voight every day, he’ll persevere. From the street cops with dreams of moving up to the elite crew who are already in, “life on the job” is a daily challenge.

  • "The Night Shift"

    Welcome to the night shift, where every day is a fight between the heroic efforts of saving lives and the hard truths of running a hospital. At San Antonio Memorial, the men and women who work the wee hours are a special breed, particularly adrenaline junkie T.C. Callahan (Eoin Macken, “Merlin”). After a grueling tour of duty in the Middle East, T.C. is about to learn that his toughest battles will be fought right at home. He and his irreverent team of late-night docs, including Topher (Ken Leung, “Lost”) and Drew (Brendan Fehr, “Roswell”), know how to let off steam with the casual prank or two, but when lives are at stake they are all business. Unfortunately, the night shift is now under new management and boss Michael Ragosa (Freddy Rodriguez, “Six Feet Under”) is more interested in cutting costs than helping people. But T.C. has never met a rule he couldn’t break, or a person he won’t stand up to. And it’s clear that not even his ex-girlfriend (Jill Flint, “The Good Wife”) who is a doctor and now Ragosa’s second in charge, has a chance at keeping him in line. If Ragosa wants a war, he’ll get one.