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 took my two year old twins to see Arts of the Horizon’s production of Nutt & Bolt last week. I had the opportunity to watch two artists tell an awesome story about working together without using any words. My two young boys that are usually running around like crazy actually sat still and were mesmerized by the thirty-minute show.
These two actors were communicating solely using their voice, simple instruments, and their bodies. This is important to my voice students because I am constantly talking about inflection in my studio and how we not only need to understand the meaning of the lyrics, but also the intent behind those lyrics. How can we vocally communicate frustration or excitement or timidity? When Nutt was upset at Bolt, we knew this from the tone of his voice (he may have sighed or grumbled) as well as from his body language and facial expression, two things that are also vital to my musical theatre singers.
An exercise for my readers: Pick your favorite song and tell the story without using any of the lyrics. How can your face, vocal sounds (not words), and body language communicate what is happening in the scene? After that, read through the lyrics as a story and be aware of your vocal inflection in each phrase and what that says about your character.
Arts on the Horizon produces theatre for ages 0 to 6, both in Alexandria, VA & Washington, DC. Check out their website for more information on their upcoming programming.
I mentioned in my last blog post that it is important to cultivate your interests outside of singing and musical theatre. I am an avid reader and enjoy nothing more than spending a short time before I go to bed each night reading a book. I’d love to have more time to sit outside on a beautiful day, enjoy an iced coffee, and read, but with two two-year-olds running around, I rarely have time for this treat. This past month, I finally read the debut novel by Caroline Angell, All The Time In The World, that was released this past summer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this on a nightly basis and didn’t want to finish (I try to savor good books as much as I can).
I knew this author in college; we had several courses together and even interacted in the campus dorms. We were both musical theatre majors at American University and we both ended up in New York City after graduation (though our paths didn’t cross in the city). Caroline also directed several theatre productions including one musical each summer at The Theatre Lab in Washington, DC. Some of my private voice students were even in these productions! When I heard that she had published her first novel, I was excited for her and couldn’t wait to buy my own copy.
The main character in this novel just so happens to be a musician (a composer, to be more specific). She is an educated artist living in NYC and working as a babysitter as she figures out her path. The novel explores topics of grief, family, romance, and finding your way in this world. It was a resonating read and had me tearing up at moments. As a mom of two little boys, I certainly thought about what it would be like if I wasn’t there for them (more tears!). As an artist, I thought about when I first moved to NYC and babysat afternoons on the Upper East Side while going to auditions in the morning. I also thought about how my experiences in babysitting influenced my career path.
I’ve never truly embraced reading on an iPad or kindle; I’ve tried it a few times, but nothing compares to holding a book in my hands and turning the pages myself. When I saw All The Time In The World sitting on the shelf at my local Target, it was immediately in my cart. If you haven’t read this novel, find a good weekend to relax outside or snuggle in by the fire to read it. I, for one, can’t wait for Caroline’s next book release!
I decided to take the first month of 2017 off from writing on this blog. As a voice teacher, performer, mom, and wife, my days are full and finding time for more things can be a challenge. With every new year comes new resolutions for many people. What types of things to I want to achieve this year? Better grades, a slimmer figure, a raise at work, more time for fun, and the list goes on. I want to focus on some great resolutions for singers and have compiled this list of five goals that are attainable.
1. To practice more. Find time to sing everyday: vocalises, repertoire, breath and foundational work. Even ten minutes a day is better than nothing (though to be honest 30 minutes is ideal for most of my voice students).
2. To seek out performance opportunities. Whether in a musical theatre production, a recital with your voice studio, or a solo with your school or church choir, find ways to sing in public.
3. To listen to music in multiple genres. If you primarily listen to pop music in the car, on your walk to work or school, and at home, then find time to listen to classical music or Broadway music. You can learn so much about different styles of music just by listening!
4. To take a workshop that will broaden your vocal skills. This workshop could be at your current voice studio, at another local arts organization, or at a top-notch conservatory.
5. To embrace your other interests and know that they make you a better singer and a better performer. What else do you love? Is it cooking, playing soccer or tennis, writing, traveling, or creating a new phone app? Whatever it is, it is important to spend time doing things that are not singing because that will make you a more well-rounded human being and a stronger performer.
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!