I watched it all, but really was put off by the wooden performances of the leads. You have to have personality with your face AND ACT as you sing these songs, and sadly Carrie is just untrained. Yes, I agree... seeing Lea Michele in this production would seemingly be wondrous.
Anyway, I find myself drawn to Connie Fisher as Maria, in the 2006-era David Ian revival of the show in London's West End which played there for three years and then toured England for a few more years. Connie was crowned the audience-chosen Maria in a BBC reality series created by Andrew Lloyd Weber and hosted by Graham Norton in the summer of 2006, which produced GIANT RATINGS and this wondrous 23-year old Maria.
Although online video from the series is scarce, and nothing exists of the stage show itself, there are a few not very high-quality snippets available that demonstrate her remarkable soprano voice and youthfulness and personality. Now THIS IS CHARM!!! This is what you want in a Maria.
This is a sample of her singing from the Royal Variety performance in 2006
(a variety stage show).
And here she is on the Alan Titchmarsh show from 2007.
In contrast, here's her actual live "competitive performance" version of the same song
during the HDYSAPLM series itself on BBC (which was re-shown in America on BBCA during the summer of 2009, which is when I stumbled into it and also fell in love with Connie as Maria as millions of Brits had already done three years earlier).
NOTE: Connie's finale competitive performance song on the reality show was "As Long As He Needs Me" from Oliver. Although there is no online video of that performance (although I have my own private video recording of the show itself), it definitely "tipped the balance" of the final two contestants. The unique musical arrangement and performance by the orchestra, not to mention her own personality and gigantic vocal delivery, made it impossible not to vote for her to be Maria in the upcoming stage performance of SOM. You really just fell over with exhaustion, the rendition was so emotional.
Although she subsequently recorded a studio version of what immediately became her "signature song" which appears on her first CD, in my opinion it didn't really match the live broadcast's competitive drama and sensational vocal presentation of that same song.
Anyway, here's the studio version of Connie's "As Long As He Needs Me" from the CD
, used as background music for a BBC TV show video.
I submit for your approval: Connie Fisher as Maria.