Seeing the pre-Broadway tryout of Beetlejuice The Musical at the National Theatre in Washington, DC on Friday night was an exciting and fun experience. I remember watching the movie over and over with my brother and the musical brought to life specific scenes and characters from the movie in an inventive and hilarious way. Of course, the musical’s (same as the movie’s) closing number had me dancing in my seat!
The vocal style in this show is without question contemporary musical theatre with pop and rock influences. There’s the boy band number, the Hamilton-esque rap duet, the teen pop ballad, and the hard rock character pieces. Vocally, we can hear the singers implementing the growl, the rock scream, the really high mix/forward placed sound, the low, soulful tone, and the nasal character voice. While these are all different, it is possible for one singer to produce a multitude of sounds and styles even within one two hour show. Things that can help singers in this feat are having a flexible soft palate, a good breath support system, and a general understanding of how your individual voice feels and resonates on your body.
I’m certain that the teen girl singers in my studio will be clamoring to learn Lydia’s music (and I might encourage them to also look at the Girl Scout’s number that opens Act II). If you’re thinking of attending an EPA for the Broadway production of Beetlejuice, either look for a pop/rock song that encompasses character (for Lydia, I might recommend a high mix Avril Lavigne or Pink or Alanis Morrisette) or a contemporary musical song with this sound (Off-Broadway and not as widely popular as Heathers preferred).
Driving to the local high school theatre at 6:58 PM (for a 7 PM show), I’m realizing I may be a few minutes late to see my students. My mom joined me for the show and just in case she missed the opening number, I was happy to give a full rendition in the car. “Oh, oh, oh woke up today, feeling the way I always do. Oh, oh, oh hungry for something that I can’t eat then I hear the beat.”
Hairspray is a high energy, contemporary musical with a score that is reminiscent of 1960’s pop music. The two stand-out vocal technique elements to the show (for me!) are stamina and vocal placement.
- Stamina: practice your music while running, while jumping, while dancing around your bedroom: with fast paced lyrics and no clear rests for breath, you need the energy and muscle strength to get through the music in character. “You Can’t Stop the Beat” is a prime example of this: we don’t want to skip a word just to get a breath, you have to practice going through the phrasing in that song as much as possible to do just this!
- Placement: there is no doubt that this a contemporary musical theatre show with the roles all embracing a strong belt and high mix registration. I talk to my singers about seamlessly switching registers and making sure they are placing correcting during breath (not after!) all the time. There are moments when young singers may crack a note or abruptly cut off or have breathy quality simply due to not knowing how to place a particular phrase on their voice. In Mama I’m A Big Girl Now, I want a forward sound with a lifted soft palate and relaxed forward tongue; I also want to hear the difference in sound between the mothers and their teenage daughters. In I Know Where I’ve Been, I want a soulful, gospel like quality with a grounded chest voice. Knowing your character and vocal placement go hand in hand. It is important to always think about your character’s journey and the lyrics when making specific technique choices!
Hairspray is running at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria this weekend and next weekend (April 20 to 28th, 2018)! Several of my voice students are involved with the production including Aidan White (Edna) and Grace Steenstra (Prudy Pingleton). It’s an awesome opportunity to support local students that are diving into these great characters and truly making them their own!
Last weekend, I saw a local community theatre production of Pippin at The Arlington Players. My student, Carla Crawford, was featured in this production as Fastrada and was wonderful! I’ve been familiar with the songs from Pippin for a long time and remember singing the opening number, “Magic To Do”, with my middle school chorus.
Written in 1972, this was Stephen Schwartz’s second Broadway show. He started working on it in college, but none of the original numbers actually made it into the Broadway production. Stephen Schwartz is most known to my students for Wicked and I think it is so important to discover and learn about earlier works by our current composers. In addition to Pippin and Wicked, Schwartz has also written Godspell, The Magic Show (has some great and not-as-well-known songs!), The Baker’s Wife, and Children of Eden. There is great repertoire in all of these shows (and even more musicals and movies that Schwartz contributed songs to and/or wrote) that are worth listening to and exploring as a musical theatre singer!
I was able to catch the Broadway revival of Pippin in September 2014. The two productions, while telling the same story, are vastly different in terms of concept, production (set, lighting, etc), and even casting. The revival cast an African American female as the leading player (which I loved!) and utilized circus acts, bringing in professional circus artists for high balancing acts, fire elements, and gymnast choreography. The Arlington Players’ production was grounded in the original 1972 concept with emphasis on simplistic storytelling and utilized simple musical instruments played by the “players” on stage. On a side note, I just realized that I have seen this musical twice and both times was in my third trimester of pregnancy (too funny)!
In addition to my awesome student, Carla Crawford, I really enjoyed the two men that played The Leading Player and Pippin at The Arlington Players. They are both theatre educators (and seeing some of their students in the lobby after the show warmed my heart and made me smile!) and the opening number to the second act, “On The Right Track”, was a highlight to the show.
There are shows at The Arlington Players tonight and tomorrow (October 20 and 21) at 8PM so you still have time to catch it! Click here for more information and tickets.
For my December playbill (and an ending to the 2016 holiday season), what better show choice than Elf? I saw the original cast on December 14, 2010 with my mom and it was a great addition to my yearly holiday festivities.
I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the time and my mom came for her annual holiday visit. She loved to visit each Christmas season to soak in the holiday spirit and check out all of the holiday markets. Over the years, I’ve been to every one in the city from Union Square to Grand Central to Bryant Park to Columbus Circle. It’s a fun tradition that we developed while I lived in NYC. We’ve returned twice since I moved to the DC area 4 years ago and always have a blast, shopping, seeing shows, trying new restaurants, and returning to our favorite places!
I was a tourist for the evening at this particular Broadway show. I got my tickets at the box office ahead of time, we both bought souvenir t-shirts from the show (pictured above), and wandered around Times Square before the evening performance.
I love New York City at Christmastime and always relish seeing Broadway shows that put me in the holiday spirit. I even purchase the cast recording after it’s released. I own the Elf recording as well as How The Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, and A Christmas Carol.
Elf is a fun musical for the whole family. If you want to see this show in the local DMV area, Aldersgate Church Community Theatre is producing Elf Jr. (a one hour version with cast members ages 8 to 18) in January. Consider adding this cast recording to your festive music list; it will certainly put you in the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” mood!
This 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!
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!
It’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.