Tag: andrew lloyd webber

Jesus Christ Superstar: Vocal Preparation

IMG_0822From Signature Theatre’s (Arlington, VA) production last spring to the NBC Live Broadcast on Easter Sunday to our local high school’s production this month, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1971 hit has been popular this past year. Jesus Christ Superstar is very on point with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  material (sometimes classified as “poperetta”) with hits from the show being widely popular radio songs as well.  Vocals are at the forefront as this is an entirely sung-through show and a wide vocal range and ability to sing in a plethora of styles is simply present throughout the entire score.

Rock Opera Vocal Technique

  1. Warm-ups for this type of show are key! I work with all of my singers to make sure they have a balanced instrument so even if they’re in a hard rock with edge place for an entire show, I always incorporate light humming and lip trills into our warm-up. I think it’s a great idea to go down a scale (sol-fa-mi-re-do) on a bub or mum and allow yourself access to a vocal fry sound, work through pentatonic scales, and make some ugly sounds with your tongue all the way out (yeah or nyeah or weah) in a higher belt/mix register. With men, a falsetto warm-up that leads itself toward a falsetto mix is awesome for this show; getting this sound without strain is essential. I cannot stress enough that if it feels painful to sing, you are doing something wrong. Even if your character is physically in pain, your voice should not be.
  2. Beware of gratuitous riffing, growling, and stereotypical rock trends. While Jesus Christ Superstar absolutely utilized rock (not Broadway) singers in the original production and we want that type of sound, it’s important to understand how to implement your own voice into the style without mimicry or what I like to say is “pretending you’re on American Idol” when you’re in fact still in a musical with a cohesive storyline. There are moments in the Jesus Chris Superstar score that are marked ad lib so knowing how to riff (especially in the characters of Jesus and Judas) and going there both dramatically and vocally is what makes it so powerful.
  3. Vocal Health: drink lots of water, get enough sleep, don’t abuse your voice, be careful of too much singing or speaking on show days are all things we’ve heard time and again. If you feel tired after a show, that’s normal and okay; you’ve just taken us on an enormous journey and may need to rest. I just always want my students to understand the difference between feeling tired and feeling like you’ve completely blown out or demolished your vocal chords. It’s easy to push or strain when you’re working on a high rock belt sound. It’s much harder to create a nuanced performance with vocal choices that are stylistically correct and healthy.

Jesus Christ Superstar is playing at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA through April 28th. Special shout-out to the freshman playing Jesus, Brevan Collins, who I have been teaching for over four years and who continually puts in the work when prepping for roles, auditions, and building his technique.

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There Is A Light: Starlight Express Has Arrived

I had the absolute privilege to see Starlight Express at West Potomac High School this past Friday night. To be completely honest, it is a show that I knew very little about and have never seen before. Here’s what I knew coming into the theatre on Friday night: the title song (I think I heard this on a demo cassette tape when I was in elementary school), roller skating, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and that’s it.

Let me say right now that I do not write reviews and that is certainly not the purpose of my blog. I had an idea of what I would write about (vocal characteristics of Andrew Lloyd Webber and finding audition material) and have completely changed direction. On Friday night, I was blown away! I do not say this lightly. Starlight Express is a rarely performed show (at least in the United States) and is a story that is great for all ages. West Potomac High School’s production is visually stunning, full of energy, and moving in the best possible ways. If you auditioned and were cast in this show , it was an extraordinary opportunity for students to learn to roller skate. The skate choreography was exciting to watch and kept the audience fully engaged in the show!

I could certainly hear Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical stylings throughout Starlight Express. He has a way of using different styles of music (pop, opera, country, even hip hop) to tell a story through music alone. The ensemble cast showcases their vocal abilities through strong harmonies in the group showstoppers. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about that sound resonating throughout the theatre.

The overriding theme of this post: seize your opportunities! If you can learn to roller skate, sing with some twang in your voice, travel to another country, work with a director or teacher that is passionate about their work, see a new show, hike to the top of mountain, DO IT. It will make you a better actor, a better performer, a better human being. And if you’re in the DC Metro area, RUN to West Potomac High School’s production of Starlight Express. It is not to be missed!

Go Go Go Joseph!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a show that will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first professional stage gig. I was an ensemble wife in the Wohlfahrt Haus Dinner Theatre’s production and was 18 years old when rehearsals started.

Seeing this awesome show at MVCCT last Sunday brought back fun memories. I had several students in this show (6 to be exact and at least 3 working backstage too!) and certainly am a proud voice teacher.

Vocally, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is not an easy show to sing. Until working with my students (Emma Brown and Lyndsey Lawrence), I never realized the vocal range for the narrator and the demand for a strong high mix in this role. Here is a video that demonstrates the use of this high mix register in “Jacob & Sons” and “Go Go Go Joseph” as well as two exercises to help singers develop their high mix!