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.
The fall audition season has arrived and I have been preparing students all summer for auditions at professional theatres, community theatres, local youth theatres, and school productions. Here are 5 basic tips to keep in mind as you get ready for your next audition:
1. Be familiar with the show that you’re auditioning for so that you can select appropriate material. What style of music? What decade/year is the show set? What characters are you right for?
2. Have your sheet music prepared for the accompanist in the right key and marked for the specific cut (usually 16 or 32 bars). Have this music memorized and ready for performance; the same goes if you are asked to prepare a monologue (1 to 2 minutes), memorized and ready to go.
3. Dress appropriately! Again, think about the character and the show, but DO NOT go in a costume. If you look and feel uncomfortable, then this will affect your performance. You want to look presentable and relatable.
4. Warm-up your voice ahead of time and take ten minutes to focus. I tell my students all the time that they don’t need a piano to warm-up. Breathing exercises, lip trills, and slides are easy on-the-go warm-ups, while free pitch pipe or piano apps on your phone can give you a starting pitch for arpeggios, scales, or even your song.
5. Be confident and have fun in the audition! You’ve done the hard work to prepare and now you get to perform your audition material for new people. Isn’t that what we performers love to do?
For those of you in the Northern Virginia area, I’m posting to promote my students’ current work around town and emphasize how proud I am of their achievements. This is a huge weekend for school musicals and I have several students that are performing lead, supporting, and ensemble roles.
Beauty & the Beast Jr. with Saint Mary’s School is playing at Bishop Ireton High School on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2 PM. Aimee Bee student highlights: Viana Schlapp is starring as Belle, Addison Parker is Silly Girl, and Elizabeth Cheney is in many scenes as a featured ensemble member.
Billy Elliot is opening tonight at West Potomac High School and plays through May 6th. More information and tickets are available here. Featured Aimee Bee students are Willa Denton, Kendall Grady, Max Marshall, and David McFarland.
Oklahoma is also opening tonight at West Springfield High School and playing through Sunday afternoon. My student, Connor Brunson, is a freshman and singing tenor in the ensemble!
Chess at The Theatre Lab in Washington, DC opens tonight and plays through May 6th. Carla Crawford has a leading role as the Arbitor in this rock musical! More information and tickets are here.
Finally, The Lion King Kids is playing on Wednesday, May 3rd, at 7 PM at Maury Elementary School. Aimee Bee students (studying with my awesome teaching artists Moriah and Jess!) Fiona Hendrickson and Eliza Gwin are in this show!
Check out these awesome shows and support our local musical theatre students!!
I finally tuned into the NBC annual live musical for 2016, Hairspray. I was teaching on the night of the actual broadcast (December 7th), but managed to DVR it and watch it on the eve of Christmas Eve. I will first say that I’ve seen Hairspray on Broadway three times as well as watched the original (non-musical) movie and the 2007 musical movie. I love the show for so many reasons: the amazing score and orchestrations, the pertinent social and historical themes, the high energy dancing! In any form, I always want to jump out of my seat to sing and dance along, which you can easily do in your living room wearing pajamas and slippers.
One notable thing about this live broadcast was their casting decision for Tracy Turnblad. Maddie Baillio was discovered at an open casting call in New York City that was attended by over 1,000 hopeful musical theatre performers.”You gotta think big to be big” is Wilbur’s line in Hairspray, but it is a testament to all Broadway hopefuls that get up at the crack of dawn, grab their audition book and heels, and head to midtown to audition for their next show. Maddie was joined by already established Broadway and film actors as well as pop stars and Disney sensations.
One huge shout out to Jennifer Hudson who was brilliant (as always) and owned the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Darren Criss served as a host for the event and I thought having this element was unnecessary and interrupted the storyline.
NBC’s live musicals are getting stronger every year and I always await the announcement of their next one (Bye Bye Birdie with Jennifer Lopez has been reported as the December 2017 show). It all started with The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood then Peter Pan then The Wiz and now Hairspray. Fox also jumped on the bandwagon with Grease last January. As a musical theatre performer and teacher, this is awesome news! I love making all of these musicals accessible to people across the globe and to have my students watch and learn from these performances (did they notice any diction issues? stamina? breath? tone quality?).
If you haven’t seen this broadcast, find it on demand or buy the DVD and watch it. It’s certainly a fun night at home and you might learn a little something to help in your own musical theatre training!
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!
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.
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”!
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!