Archive for February 10th, 2021

The Play’s The Thing

Image result for how can love survive itv

The recent demise of Christopher Plummer led to a lot of postings of Edelweiss, or other clips from The Sound of Music, the movie for which he was best-known, even if he was at best ambivalent about the role.

It led me to go back and listen to the Broadway cast album which included Mary Martin (not Julie Andrews) and Theodore Bikel (not Mr. Plummer). And tucked in there are two songs that were dropped from the movie, “How Can Love Survive,” and “No Way To Stop It.” They’re the only two songs where Max and Elsa sing, they’re the only singers in each song. The significance of that is clear – Max and Elsa, with no romantic connection, share an outlook on life.

In “No Way To Stop It” that outlook is grim; the duet tries to persuade the Captain to go along with the inevitable Anschluss. They fail, and the Captan and Elsa agree to end their engagement.

But “How Can Love Survive,” earlier in the first act, is lighter and funnier and wittier, true R&H fare. Elsa knows that something is keeping the Captain from proposing, and Max suggests it’s because the couple, being wealthy, doesn’t face enough adversity. It’s a funny conceit, although also foreshadowing: how much money can you carry over the mountains on skis?

The numbers are important to the plot for two reasons – they make Max and Elsa into something more than cardboard characters, and serve in different degrees to show that Elsa isn’t the best match for the Captain, even in Maria’s absence. The show works better if Elsa’s somewhat likable; it makes the Captain’s emotional struggle more real.

The clip above is from the ITV’s live TV performance of the show from 2015, featuring Julian Ovenden as the Captain, probably better known to American audiences as Charles Blake on Downton Abbey and Andrew Foyle, the Inspector’s son, on Foyle’s War. He’s also a bona fide West End musical stage star.

Katherine Kelly is probably mostly unknown to Americans, but well-known to British viewers; they may not have known that she can sing like that. She may sing beautifully, but it’s her acting that really sells the song. The faux grim-visionary determination on the line, “two millionaires with a dream are we,” is hysterical.

Once I found the song, I looked through YouTube for some other stagings, and this one is the best by far. It’s suitably understated, and it only gains by including the Captain, where his presence for the song is often treated as optional. After you’re done, go back and watch it again, focusing on the servants. Chances are you barely noticed them the first time through.

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