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!!
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”!
It 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?
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Last, but not least, HAVE FUN! It’s your time and your audition so enjoy it.
Audiences love Disney on Broadway and these shows can be seen in touring, regional, community, and school theaters across the country. The Lion King has been running for almost 19 years! The first Disney musical that I saw was Beauty and the Beast and I fell in love with the music and magical components of that show. My personal favorites are the numbers that were added to the production and not part of the original movie like “Home”. This is true for me with a lot of Disney musicals. I adore “Positoovity” from The Little Mermaid, “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins, and “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin.
In 2010, I was invited to serve as the educational director at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s summer camp. In addition to spending the summer in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, I had the opportunity to direct almost 100 kids in a production of Aladdin Kids! I had three separate casts (approx. 33 actors in each cast) that had to learn the music, choreography, and blocking for this show. I already knew the music very well from the movie (which I saw as a child at the movie theater) and subsequently the vocal selections that I brought in to learn with my piano and voice teacher. We performed in an open amphitheater overlooking the water and this space gave me a lot of artistic freedom for audience interaction and creating the world of Aladdin.
Aladdin is an awesome show that has creative ways to incorporate a large ensemble and showcase students’ individual talents as well as build a cohesive cast. If I had a gymnast, I had a spot to feature him or her in “Friend Like Me”. Same thing with a breakdancer, beatboxer, belly dancer, fire breather… I love honing my students’ theatre technique while finding ways for them to share their special skills with the cast and audiences.
Aladdin is currently on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. This is the same theatre where The Lion King started before moving to the Minskoff Theatre and making room for Mary Poppins to open. I wonder what new Disney musical will make its’ way into this theatre next…
Do you have a favorite Disney musical? Please comment and share!
In the past month, I have seen three Stephen Sondheim musicals in the local DC community. As a singer, I absolutely adore his music and lyrics. I find them to be at once complex and beautifully simplistic. His songs (stories) always take me on journey whether I am the performer or the listener.
I started my Sondheim month by seeing Sweeney Todd at the St. Mark’s Players in SE Washington, DC. Featuring two of my amazing students, Brevan Collins (Tobias) and Carla Crawford (Ensemble), the story came to life in this church space under the direction of my good friend Christine Callsen. I have seen several productions of Sweeney Todd and, of course, the 2007 feature film with Johnny Depp. This is musical theatre at its’ finest with captivating and intriguing music. By no means an easy score to sing, all of these characters have complex harmonies, wide ranges, and overlapping melodic lines. Personal song favorites are “Johanna” (beautiful…please listen if you don’t know this song!) and “By The Sea” (just a fun character piece).
Next in my journey was Into The Woods Jr. at Aldersgate Church Community Theatre. Featuring a cast of 8 to 18 year olds, this production featured several of my students. I always enjoy this show! It has characters that we all know from childhood fairytales, imagined in a brand-new light with music that is memorable and fun to sing! An attention to diction is essential in this show as the songs have lots of detailed words, move the story forward, and bring these characters to life. When I think of this show, I immediately hear the music for “Moments in the Woods”, “On The Steps of the Palace”, and “Children will Listen”.
I closed the current winter DC Sondheim tour with Road Show at Signature Theatre. This is Stephen Sondheim’s most recent musical. It has been reimagined several times (I did not see the original incarnations) and includes actor-musicians in the ensemble. I could absolutely hear Sondheim’s voice in this show through the musical storyline. It is a one hour and 40 minute show with no intermission (a little unusual for Sondheim) and has orchestrations that are written for a small number of instruments (primarily piano and violin). Memorable songs for me are “The Best Thing That Ever Happened” (I really loved the relationship between Addison and Hollis) and “Addison’s Trip”.
It is no surprise that there seem to be a multitude of Stephen Sondheim shows playing in the DC area. Road Show is Signature’s 26th production of a Sondheim musical! If you are unfamiliar with this composer, please seek out his work on iTunes and find a production to see. Vocalists can learn so much from studying his music in terms of diction, breath support, pitch, harmonization, patter, and song interpretation (distinct character choices).