Playbill Series: Promises, Promises

_dsc3663This November I’m revisiting my experience seeing the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. I chose this show because it has a great Thanksgiving Broadway number in it called “Turkey Lurkey Time”. It always puts me in the holiday spirit and makes me want to dance around my living room!

I saw this show on May 1, 2010. These tickets were TKTS scores. My in-laws were visiting us in Manhattan (we were living on the UWS) and we decided to make our way to Times Square for last minute tickets to a show. We chose Promises, Promises because it was a classic show that I had never seen. I had, however, heard numerous numbers from this show in films (the “Say A Little Prayer” scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding) and dance classes (the aforementioned “Turkey Lurkey Time”) and old records that were played in my house. Burt Bacharach and Hal David were contemporary songwriters in their day and heard on the radio!

When I was living in NYC, I always loved taking friends and family that visited to the theatre district for tickets to a Broadway show. Since I moved out of the city (over 4 years ago now?!), I still return for visits with the intent to catch a current Broadway show. Or two or three….

Here is Turkey Lurkey Time featuring the original 1969 cast for you to enjoy!

 

Bring the Family Under The Sea

 

 

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The cast of The Little Mermaid                                                                                                                       My students Brevan Collins (King Triton), Tamzin Folz, Helen Cooper, and Ayla Collins

Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid is perfect for the whole family! I saw this fun-filled Disney musical on Sunday, November 13th, and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. Aimee Bee Inc has 11 students in the production that either take private lessons on a regular weekly basis or coach for specific auditions and performances. I am one proud voice teacher! All of my students’ hard work on strengthening their sound, their diction, and their expression was seen on that stage.

MVCCT is a special place. I started teaching in the summer camps at MVCCT my first year living in Northern Virginia and have since taught spring break camps as well as workday workshops.  I’ve met amazing artists, teachers, and friends through these opportunities as well as worked with some incredible groups of students.

I am writing today about how wonderful theatre is for these young performers. MVCCT is more than a children’s theatre company; it is a family. The community that has been built within MVCCT is admirable. It is a place to sing your heart out, laugh with your cast, figure out how to move a giant set piece as a team, cry when you’re having a bad day, and share your many talents.

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My student Nicole Jones (Ariel)

I wholeheartedly believe that theatre is empowering to children and teens, that it offers a means of expression that can benefit students within their everyday life. I also believe that theatre explores themes that are applicable to other subjects including history, English, and geography. Maybe some of these cast members learned about a new sea creature from singing “Under The Sea”!

If you’ve seen the movie, you’re sure to recognize many of the songs in The Little Mermaid including the classic “Part of Your World”. I will once again say that I always love the songs that are written specifically for the Broadway show and not in the movie version. Some of these are “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” (I just LOVE this piece and the staging in MVCCT’s show is perfect!), “If Only” (the quartet of this song is beautiful!), “Positoovity” (don’t forget Scuttle’s big moment!), and “The World Above” (I had tears in my eyes during this opening number because I was so proud of Nicole, our Ariel, and could really hear the growth in her voice).

The Little Mermaid is running through this upcoming Sunday, November 20th. Get your tickets now and take the whole family “Under The Sea”!

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My student Aidan White (Sebastian)

 

 

School of Rock: Rock Your Voice!

On Friday, November 4th, I saw the opening night performance and the youth production regional premiere of School of Rock at West Potomac High School. I had several students in the production that I coached for their auditions, which consisted of singing from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score. We worked on extending our range into a balanced effortless high mix, eliminating vibrato, releasing notes (without cracking or pulling back or falling off), and switching between registers seamlessly.

Four things I learned from watching this production:
A. The role of Dewey is exhausting. The sheer amount of energy required for this role is astounding.

B. Singing strong and high (in both mix rock and legit) is difficult to master. I knew this one already, but seeing this show definitely reiterated it.

C. Becoming more than a triple threat and being able to also play an instrument is a huge component of this show for multiple characters! Doing this at the high school level is another awesome opportunity to hone skills that will benefit young performers in the professional theatre world.

D. The ensemble in School of Rock is great and there were some memorable moments within the ensemble! Kudos to Director Clark for utilizing the ensemble in interesting and notable ways.

Here is a video examining two short sections of musical theatre rock vocals and how to execute them!

Musical Theatre About Town

The fall is here and I have students performing in productions all over town in lead, supporting, and ensemble roles. I’ll be writing about many of these shows over the next month, but have decided to start with a professional staged reading that I saw at Signature Theatre this October.

I am a strong advocate for new musical theatre, learning about new composers, new shows, and new repertoire. As I discover new material, I also develop opinions on these pieces. It may be apparent that a show needs a lot of work (re-writes, cuts, edits) before heading to a larger venue or it may be ready for something more and leave you (the audience member) excited about this new show. I always consider whether a show has something unique to offer our contemporary musical theatre world and whether the storyline is compelling.

On October 22nd, I had the opportunity to see a staged reading of Light Years at Signature Theatre as part of their SigWorks: Musical Theater Lab. Watching a bare space with 6 actors sitting in chairs behind music stands in everyday clothes, I was captivated by these artists that brought this story to life through vocal inflections, pacing, and simply telling the story.

Robbie Schaefer, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics for this show, also performed the role of Older Robbie and played guitar (the main source of accompaniment with some piano). This was a brand-new show to me in every way. I did not know the composer or the story or even the style of music. The score had a folk influence and feel (and if any of my students were auditioning for this show, I would look beyond musical theatre and find a song that is folk or country). It was directed by Eric Schaeffer (a big name in the musical theatre biz) and the music was beautifully and seamlessly connected with the book.

This was my first experience with SigWorks and I can’t wait to see what is next. They are creating art and bringing to life new musical theatre works that need to be seen and heard.  Being in this small audience on that Saturday afternoon was a joy and I soaked in every  minute. Don’t be afraid to see a show just because you don’t know anything about it! It’s important to support new musical theatre and to be open to these new and exciting works of art.

Keep On Learning & Growing

I know firsthand how important it is as an artist and as a human being to continue to learn, grow, and never become complacent. I teach students of all ages and levels and I’m constantly encouraging them to seek out new repertoire, expand into different musical genres, and discover new meaning in each song. Sometimes I need to take my own advice.

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to sing a solo with an awesome group of vocalists at Shaw’s Tavern in Washington, DC. My specific piece was recommended to me by the music director, Jill Parsons, and I had never heard of the song nor did I have the sheet music. I learned by listening to the lyrics and then using my own voice to tell the story.

In all honesty, I haven’t performed as a soloist very much since my twins were born and they’re now 21 months. Before this, I was performing professionally with several concerts, recordings, and shows a year. I felt really nervous at this performance. Looking back afterwards, this was silly and unnecessary; all of the singers in the program were welcoming and supportive. I jumped into my song quickly (could have taken 2 more measures), rushed a few phrases, and made a skip in lyrics (thankfully, Jill gracefully followed me on piano so the audience wasn’t aware). I would have performed better if I had just relaxed, told my story, and found the joy in this awesome singing opportunity. It was a learning experience for me; a strong wake up call that I need to do just want I propel my students to do and enjoy the journey!

I thought I would share a home rehearsal of the new musical theatre song that I sang at this event. Here’s “A Man In Mind” from The Route to Happiness:

Playbill Series: If/Then

_dsc9111It’s September and I’m going to share my experience seeing If/Then on Broadway. I’m going to preface this post by saying that I saw the pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, DC and already loved the Tom Kitt/ BYorkey score. I will also note that I think Ms. Idina Menzel picks someone in the audience to wave to as she exits after curtain call each performance and I think that I was that lucky person during this particular Saturday matinee.

Since I had already seen this show during its’ pre-Broadway tryout, it wasn’t at the top of my list to see during one of my NYC trips. I was already 6 months pregnant and knew that I wouldn’t be able to hop on a train to the city whenever I felt like it once my twins were born. My good friend, Courtney, and I were planning on seeing 2 shows during my short stay with her, a Friday evening show and a Saturday matinee. We decided to try our hand at a lottery ticket when I first got to town and if that failed, we’d hit up TKTS in Times Square. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but I have very little luck when it comes to these lotteries. We each put our name in the drawing at Aladdin and neither of our names was drawn. Usually all of the lotteries take place at the exact same time and since you have to be there when your name is called, it’s impossible to be in the lottery for more than one show. As luck would have it, If/Then had their lottery a half-hour later than all of the other shows so we decided to try for it. Courtney’s name was called second and I was called fourth…what?!?! My name didn’t even need to be called since each person can buy up to 2 tickets.

On this mild Friday evening, we scored $35 orchestra seats to the show and had just enough time to meet Courtney’s husband, Rick, for dinner at 5 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen. We made it back to the theatre with time to spare and settled into our bargain seats!

Having the opportunity to see this show again allowed me to see how they tightened things up and refined the book for their Broadway engagement. Although there were certainly mixed reviews for this show, I loved seeing it both times and really related to the storyline. Maybe this is because I was pregnant and being a mother (and a military family) is a part of this show. Maybe it’s because I sometimes think about life in terms of if I had done this versus that and where I would be. Maybe it’s because it takes place in NYC and everyone knows I love the city. Or maybe it’s because the show had an awesome cast, a cool ensemble, and great energy! There is nothing that excites me and inspires me more than an evening of musical theatre.

 

Finding That Perfect 16-Bars

16-bar-cutIt is common practice in musical theatre for auditions to consist of singing 16-bars at both the professional and community level. On occasion you may be asked for 32-bars, a short song (2-3 min), or even an 8-bar cut (yikes!). I’m focusing on finding 16-bar cuts, approximately 30 to 45 seconds of music, for the purpose of auditioning. Many of my students want to show everything they can do in this short amount of time from their highest note to their powerful belt to their awesome acting chops to their musical prowess. In short, this is an impossible task and not what I want my students to focus on.

What’s important in those 16-bars?

  1. Find a song that is age and voice appropriate. I don’t want to hear a thirteen year old singing “Send In The Clowns” or a fifty year old singing “Good Morning Baltimore”.
  2. Find a song that fits the style of the show you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for Rock of Ages, a rock song (preferably not from a musical) is what I’d recommend whereas if you’re audition for The Sound of Music, I would generally suggest a legit classic musical theatre song.
  3. Find a song that you love. There is so much music to choose from that there is no need to settle for a song that you think is just okay.
  4. Tell a story in sixteen bars and make sure that your cut makes sense. We don’t want to end in the middle of a phrase or on a leading tone (note that wants to be resolved to Do). It is possible to have a cohesive story in 16-bars.
  5. You! Directors, music directors, and the producing team want to work with awesome people. Don’t get so caught up in vocal technique and acting and musicality that you forget to simply enjoy the performance of your 16-bars!
  6. Last, but not least, HAVE FUN! It’s your time and your audition so enjoy it.