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Merrily we roll along. Sondheim, Good thing Going
Excavating the Song: a Practical Practical Guide for the Singing Singing Actor
Selected resources compiled and written by Neal Neal Richardson Richardson Fall 2009
Excavating the Song: a Practical Guide for the Singing Singing Actor The Challenge We all have favorite singers—ones who inspired us and helped us to decide to follow the dream of musical theatre. Some of your y our favorites may include Judy Garland, Idina Menzel, Sutton Foster, Liz Callaway, Audra McDonald, Alfred Drake, Marc Kudisch, Brian Stokes Mitchell or Gavin Creel. These singing actors are unquestionably great, but what makes their performances so compelling? Is it simply their voices? Their acting skills? Their personality? Or is it combination of these? And what do they have in common? Did they attend one of the great musical theatre training institutions? Do they share similar interpretative styles? Did they coach with great coaches? Each of their journeys to greatness was different and so was their training. Your Your path will be your own too. You may say, say, “I am a good singer and a good actor, what else do I need except the chance for a breakthrough role?” You may have many skills in your back pocket but there are probably still some things you have difficulty with. You You may struggle with do with your yo ur hands when you sing, or where your focus should be, b e, or difficulty in auditions. The resources you hold in yo ur hand hope to address ad dress these things and many others. It is a work in progress and is by no means completed. This is the first edition and there will be ad ditions in coming years. There is a great chance that some of the things discussed here will be things you already know well. There may be, however, other things that will inspire an “ah-ha” moment. Some things may frustrate you. Some things may thrill you. Some things may bore you yo u and some things may just be the break-through you need in your performance. I encourage you to engage with the tasks detailed here and give them a chance to work. Without a doubt, the skills required of the modern singing actor pose an enormous challenge. The objective of this resource is to simplify and clearly articulate some of the tasks you will be doing on a daily basis for a very long time. Rules
Do we need rules for something as ephemeral and specialized as singing a song on stage? Judy Garland breaks many of the so-called rules. Does that mean she’s not a good performer? Of course not. The guidelines here will simply give you a starting point from which you can employ your unique creative gifts. Let me restate that, it is a starting point only. Some of the activities in this resource may not work for every singing or acting opportunity, but, as the saying goes, you can’t break the rules unless you know what rules you’re breaking. If you go into each opportunity without a process, you are reinventing the wheel with each song. In your career you will be asked to sing many different kinds of songs. So me of these songs will be classics. Some will be clunkers. Some songs you will “get” immediately and some
may have you throwing up your hands in despair. With With these resources however, you will have tools in your tool chest to tackle many issues you will face. Three Things There are three things that make up a great performance of a song: singing, acting and musicality. musicality. Singing pertains to the vocal voca l sound and may include things such as tone color, pitch and breath support. When we speak of acting in a song, as opposed to acting in a straight play, play, we mean things like, does the singer communicate the story of the song clearly, clearly, do they inhabit the physical life of the character, and is there a connection between singer and material? It is unquestionable that when you add the subjective, sensuous element of music, the situation is elevated. When studying the recent musical, Legally musical, Legally Blond, I was struck by how often exclamation points appear in the lyric. This is because the writers had fashioned the book, music and lyrics to express moments of elevated emotion or need in the songs. Omigod!!! Musical theatre acting isn’t exactly naturalistic. And yet, in the today’s productions of new shows and in revivals of classics, c lassics, naturalism, or maybe more specifically, realism, realism, is the style of our time. Audiences today want “real.” If it’s not real then it’s it’s fake. fake. But naturalism and musical theatre aren’t exactly compatible. The scale of musical theatre is muc h bigger than our daily lives, not to mention that there is an orchestra accompanying us as we sing about the things we want from life on stage. I do d o believe, however, that realism and realism and musical theatre are a perfect match. The humanity, the warmth, the pure emotion of music is directly related to the kinds of things we think, feel and do on a daily basis. The third element is one that is oftentimes the scariest for singers–musicality. You You may struggle with learning music or you may know that you are not taping into a song’s full potential. The most exciting singers are the ones who can take what the composer and lyricist have given them a make it extra-special. A part of this intangible quality is musicality. If we were suddenly unable to see your performance, pe rformance, would we still be able to understand u nderstand the moments from what we were hearing? A great performance is more than correct notes and rhythm. Sometimes singing the correct notes and rhythm lacks musicality. This may seem like a paradox. Music notation is highly imprecise and it takes a great g reat deal of sensitivity and study to sing stylistically. The Challenge There is no other kind of singer working today that has more asked of them than the musical theatre singer. You You are asked to belt, asked to sing so-called legit, asked to sing pop and rock, asked to sing in jazz styles, and asked to sing in a style that can only be called the Golden Era musical theatre style, something that is an ama lgamation of many styles. You You are also asked to do the work of an actor: to be “in the moment”, to pursue objectives, and to embody the life of your character. This is a Herculean task and I haven’t even mentioned dancing! The objective of this resource is to help the singing actor become more confident in their work and to dig deeper into a song. Its aim is no less than to help you truly excavate all the amazing things that are waiting for you and your audience. You You are on your way to greatness!
Additional resources may be found found at web.mac.com/nealrichardson web.mac.com/nealrichardson//. Click on “Excavating the Song.” Contact Neal for username and password. 3
Contents The Actor’s Homework ........................ 5 The Actor’s Actor ’s Homework Worksheet....... 15 Music Preparation ................................. 19 Cabaret Styles ....................................... 29 Audition Book Song Categories ........... 31 Choice Songs: Men ............................... 33 Choice Songs: Women .......................... 35 New and Notable Notable Young Young Composers ....39 Annotated Bibliography Bibliog raphy........................ 41 Acknowledgements............................... 44
Excavating the Song: The Actor’s Homework Excavate [eks-kuh-veyt] —to expose or lay bare as if by digging It can be very exciting to begin work on a new song, but is can also be overwhelming when there are so many things to think about and questions to answer. You may be confused as to where to begin. For instance, you might understand the situation presented in the song because you have seen the musical, but you may get lost in knowing how to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. Below you will find a detailed process for excavating and exploring your song. In this resource, I will assume you know a least a little bit about the show your song is from but I will ask you, for now, to take songs out of the context of the show. It is useful to approach new material this way (when you are not preparing a role) as it opens up so many avenues for you as an actor. The creative practice of imagining your own situation and defining your character will serve you in all your work and awaken your mind to even more possibilities when you are preparing a role. Some of this work may feel like playwriting. That is intentional. The questions ask you to think creatively about the song and really explore its potential. If you get stuck someplace along the way, consider taking a few steps back to see if on e of your earlier answers is blocking you off from a more interesting choice. It is my hope that you will find this fun as well as challenging. 1. Write the lyrics in prose form, carefully observing punctuation marks.
Song title: Dancing Through Life Composer/Lyricist: Stephen Schwartz Show Title: Wicked The trouble with school is they always try to teach the wrong lesson. Believe me, I’ve been kicked out of enough to them to know. They want you to become less callow, less shallow, but I say, “Why invite stress in? Stop studying strife and learn to live the un examined life’”… Dancing through life, skimming the surface, gliding where turf is smooth. Life’s more painless for the brainless. Why think too hard when it’s so soothing? Dancing through life? No need to tough it when you can slough it off as I do. Nothing matters, but knowing nothing matters. It’s just life so keep dancing through… Dancing through life, swaying and sweeping, and always keeping cool. Life is fraughtless when you’re thoughtless. Those who don’t try never look foolish… Dancing through life…Mindless and careless, make sure you’re where less trouble is rife… Woes are fleeting, blows are glancing…when you’re dancing through life… Let’s go down to the Ozdust Ballroom. We’ll meet there later tonight. We can dance till it’s light. Find the prettiest girl…Give ‘er a whirl right on down to the Ozdust Ballroom–Come on follow me, you’ll be happy to be there…Dancing through life, down at the Ozdust, if only because dust is what we come to… Nothing matters but knowing nothing matters. It’s just life so keep dancing through. 2. What is this song about objectively? In other words, looking only at the lyrics without adding your interpretation, what is the song about?
It’s about a guy who thinks that life shouldn’t taken too seriously and that just having fun is the best way to live. 3. Having looked at the song objectively, now begin thinking about your interpretation of the song by answering the following questions. This will will lead you to your subjective interpretation of the song.
A. Who is the Singer? Describe the character using definite statements . He’s not very bright. He is afraid of not succeeding. He is go od-looking. For him, success is having the best time with the prettiest girl. Underneath his exterior, he’s insecure. B. Who are you singing to? Choose a person or persons that will create interest and conflict. I am singing to the prettiest girl in my class, Samantha, who also happens to the best student in school. C. When is it? At the end of last period. I’ve just seen her talking and flirting with my bigge st rival, Roger. D. Where are you? The more specific your location, the more real it will be for you. Outside the library–she was flirting with Roger in the library just before this. E. Why do you need to say these words? The stronger the need, the better. I’ve just broken up with my girlfriend and the prom is this weekend. The idea of not going to the prom is unthinkable and if I don’t go, I’ll consider myself a failure. So will all my friends. F. What changes during the song? I’m able to convince her to go with me. G. What do you want? What will happen if you don’t get it? I want her to say yes. If I don’t get it, my status as the most popular gu y in school will be lost. That is the most important thing to me and the thing that my self-worth is based on. H. Why sing this song now and not yesterday or tomorrow? My girlfriend just broke up with me. I can’t wait until tomorrow because she might go to the prom with Roger.
Write a defining sentence. This sentence will be, in essence a shorthand for the actor’s journey through the song. This is a song about a boy (a girl, a man, Dr. Monroe), me, that _______________________. These words should sum up in a concise sentence or two your version of what happens during the song and what your objective is. Note that this sentence may include both the objective observations about the lyric and your subjective interpretation. This is a song about a guy, me, that needs to hold on to his status as the coolest guy in school. I must convince Samantha to go with me to the prom or risk losing that status.
Notice how different this sentence is from the one above: “It’s about a guy who thinks that life shouldn’t taken too seriously and that just having fun is the best way to live.” This is the difference between objective and subjective interpretation. Being Specific
Now that the objective of the song has been explored, it’s time to get more specific with the song’s moments. It is a good time to consider the arc of your song. There are four possible arcs: 1. The winning arc 2. The losing arc 3. The “ending up where you started” arc 4. The serendipity arc - ending in a place you hadn’t anticipated. The most common arc is the winning arc and it’s the one best suited for an audition. The arc of our song, “Dancing Through Life,” is certainly a winning arc as the singer is able to get Samantha to go to the prom with him by the end. You might want to choose a good place for her to agree to go to the prom with you. This can be a powerful moment. Defining Beats in the Song Let’s move to a different song, one with a losing arc and ge t more specific. “I Had a Dream About You” from Maury Yeston’s December Songs.
I had a dream about you, we were together again as we had always been. It was the happiest dream I think I ever have had that you and I’ve been in. It was a dream I don’t need to explain. We’re in the care and We’re driving in Maine. It’s so incredibly beautiful I don’t know where to begin. We’re driving into the night and from a magical height we see two orange moons, they’re hangin’ up in the sky like a pair of contented balloons. And as we stare into space in astonishment, I turn to look at your face and you kiss me… All in an instant inside of a wonderful dream. Oh, I remember two orange moons rise in the sky to sound of loons and you were there, my dream. I had a dream about you, we were together again, an old familiar pair. It was the kind of a dream so absolutely convincing you believe you’re there. The open road and the dotted white lines, the crispy smell in the air of the pines, the overwhelming sensation you’re up and awake everywhere… And when we look in the sky, they’re getting higher and higher, those two orange moons. There’s one for you and for me and, impossibly, both of them gleam. And I am holding your hand for eternity and you’re beginning to say that you love me. If only it really had happened, if only it all really happened. I had a dream about you but, of course it was only a dream…It was only a dream…It was only a dream…I had a dream about you but, of course, it was only a dream.
What is this song about objectively? It’s about a women relating her dream to her former partner. It starts nicely but by the end, she knows that this dream is not reality. Who is the singer? Describe the character using definite statements. She is 28 years old and works in a bookstore that she owns. She’s very intellectual but has difficulty in staying in a relationship. Who are you singing to? Choose a person or person that will create interest and conflict. I am singing to my boyfriend, Frank. We broke-up over our disagreements about having a child. He wanted a child. I am not ready. When is it? It’s 11:00 AM. Where are you? We’ve run into each other unexpectedly at Starbucks. It’s like it was ordained by the stars! Why do you need to say these words? The stronger the need, the better. I’ve just come from my therapist where we were talking about my relationship with Frank. We did not, however, talk about the dream because we ran out of time. The dream has been going through my mind constantly though. I’ve been trying to figure out what the two moons in the song mean. When I see him, I can’t help myself. I’m so happy to see him and without thinking about the wisdom of it, I start into my dream. What changes during the song? I finally hits me for the first time that there is no c hance for us. I see from his reaction, that he wants to desperately leave. As I tell him the dream, I can see how uncomfortable he is. He was never a fan of fact that I was so into my head. The meaning of “of course, it was only a dream” changes during the song. The first time I say it, I’m trying to make fun of myself and make light of the fact that I’m “in my head” again. By the end of the song, it’s as if I’m waking from the dream of us ever being together. What do you want? What will happen if you don’t get it? I’m 28. I’m not ready to have a child but I am more than ready to have my “one great love.” I thought Frank was it. I thought we could work through our issues with children. I’ve placed everything, my hope for security, my dreams for a house and financial security on Frank. If I don’t win Frank back, and this is my last chance, I will work in the bookstore all my life and never fulfill my dreams of becoming a writer.
Why sing this song now? Well, we are here together unexpectedly and I have to get back to the store. Write your defining sentence. These words should sum up in a concise sentence or two your version of what happens during the song and what your objective is. Note that this sentence may include both the objective observations about the lyric and your subjective interpretation. This is a story about me, Janice, who needs to seize this opportunity to win back the man I love in order to achieve the security I am lacking. Basis Structural Music Analysis An examination of the song’s musical structure will help you complete your work. Look for verse and refrain in songs before 1970 and for verse, chorus and bridge in songs after 1970. There is more about musical form in the next chapter. Also look for repeated musical sections. Below are some additional guidelines for structural analysis that will help in breaking down the song into beats. These places usually mark beat changes.
1. The change from verse to refrain. 2. The change between sections (i.e. from A to B or from B back to A). Most standards and Golden Era musical theatre begin with a verse and progress to the refrain. In the refrain, there are often at least four sections of music (i.e. A, B and possible C). In p op/rock inflected musical theatre, this terminology is changed to Verse, Chorus and Bridge with the most common form being Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus with a possible Bridge someplace. 3. Changes in tempo 4. Changes in style 5. Changes in accompaniment Read the lyric again and mark places that seem like appropriate beat changes. You will also want to take musical structure and changes into consideration. The form of this song is unusual: AABAAC.
The Song Broken Down into Beats
Having looked at the song structurally, we can break it down into beats.
I had a dream about you, we were together again as we had always been. It was the happiest dream I think I ever have had that you and I’ve been in. It was a dream I don’t need to explain. We’re in the care and we’re driving in Maine. It’s so incredibly beautiful I don’t know where to begin.
The first A section, rolling accompaniment. She begins telling a story, a nice story about her dream. She awakens him in order to get his attention. She is successful .
We’re driving into the night and from a magical height we see two orange moons, they’re hangin’ up in the sky like a pair of contented balloons. And as we stare into space in astonishment, I turn to look at your face and you kiss me… All in an instant inside of a wonderful dream.
The second A section. Same accompaniment. The dream gets stranger with the image of two moons but concludes with a kiss. She seduces him with this exotic story in order that he will find her charming and kiss her. In the dream he kisses her but in actuality, he does not. She is unsuccessful .
Oh, I remember two orange moons rise in the sky to sound of loons and you were there, my dream.
B section, the accompaniment changes. No new dramatic information. She is reminding him of the image of the two moons. She worries that she is losing his attention so she chases him by reminding him that this is a magical dream with two moons, one that represents her and one that represents him. She is successful in the objective which heartens her, propelling the song to a higher key.
I had a dream about you, we were together again, an old familiar pair. It was the kind of a dream so absolutely convincing you believe you’re there. The open road and the dotted white lines, the crispy smell in the air of the pines, the overwhelming sensation you’re up and awake everywhere… And when we look in the sky, they’re getting higher and higher, those two orange moons. There’s one for you and for me and, impossibly, both of them gleam. And I am holding your hand for eternity and you’re beginning to say that you love me.
Key change! Back to the accompaniment of the A sections. The situation intensifies with the key change. With the key change, her objective is to encourage him to kiss her and tell her that he will love her forever. She is unsuccessful in this objective.
If only it really had happened, if only it all really happened. I had a dream about you but, of course it was only a dream…It was only a dream…It was only a dream…I had a dream about you but, of course, it was only a dream.
New musical material. She realizes for the first time that they will never be together and this is less of a dream and more of a nightmare, the repeated “It was only a dream” is as if the singer is waking up to the reality of the doomed relationship. She ends up in a place she didn’t know she would end up. This is not what she expected. She realizes that she will never get what she wants from him. She convinces him to say that everything will be okay. She is unsuccessful .
The danger in singing a song such as this with a loosing arc is to start with that in mind. The actor, who knows how the song will en d, needs to remember when beginning this song not to give that ending away. The character doesn’t know how it will end. Playing the end of the song from the outset is the trap of this song. Every song has a trap. It is your job to identify the trap of the song and not fall into it. “Good Thing Going” from Merrily We Roll Along, has a similar trap. In the song, the singer speaks of all the good things that were part of their lives together. He tempers it with some clarifications that not everything was perfect. It is not until the very last word of the song, “going, going, gone,” that the singer must face the truth of the end of the relationship. If you play the end of the relationship at the beginning of the song, there is no arc, only a straight line. How boring! You may notice that I’ve put some of the verbs in bold-face. These verbs sum up the action in each section. You will want to choose strong active verbs. I’ve listed some actable verbs from Joanna Merlin’s terrific book, Auditioning: An Actor Friendly Guide. There are, of course, others. We will come back to these verbs when we discuss doing the monologue.
Song as Monologue Here are the suggested steps for doing the song as a monologue. The pianist is not brought into the work until step 5.
1. Speak the words, without inflection, with speed so that the words form on your tongue without stops and starts. The purpose of this is to aid in memorizing and getting the words securely in your muscle memory. Do this until you can do it without any hesitation. 2. Physicalize the active verbs in each beat hearing the lyrics in your head but without speaking them. Once a section is finished move on to the next verb. Have a friend hold up cue cards with that verb written on it to remind you if that will help. Some people find this to be difficult. Do not let yourself become frustrated. Start in a neutral position (focus forward Center, weight on both feet and arms to your side) by saying to yourself the defining sentence (i.e. “ This is a story about me, Janice, who needs to seize this opportunity to win back the man I love in order to achieve the security I am lacking.”). Then when you see the inciting event, begin to hear the monologue in your head while employing complete physical involvement. Don't plan what you are going to do. Let it be spontaneous.
3. Now do the monologue keeping in mind the active verbs you assigned to each beat. You may use the cue cards again. Keep your focus forward, center and on your partner. It is important that your focus is placed directly on your scene partner. Have a friend stand in for you scene partner if you find that helpful. This activity is about combining the lyrics of the song with the assigned verbs. 12
4. Physicalize the monologue using the actual lyrics. Start in a neutral position (focus forward, Center, weight on both feet an d arms to your side) by saying to yourself the defining sentence. When you see the inciting event begin to speak the monologue with complete physical involvement. This is not a verbal exercise, it is physical. Whisper if you need to. The lyrics are of secondary importance to the physical life. 5. Having the pianist only play chords or a simple, out of tempo, accompaniment, sing the song repeating step 3.
6. When you are ready, have the pianist play the actual accompaniment as you sing the song. Physicalize each moment to the degree you feel is appropriate. Do not allow the accompaniment to make your work less specific. Please go back and repeat earlier steps until you are secure with ea ch activity. Pre-beat I’ve mentioned repeating the defining sentence before beginning. This is in order to create a shorthand that will quickly remind you of the objective of the song and its arc. Once you have done that, there is another step before you can begin singing, The “pre-beat” consists of three steps: 1. Seeing the event (what do you see?) 2. Taking it in (what effect does it have on you?) 3. Responding to it (what is your response?)
In “I Had a Dream About You,” the inciting event is the surprise of seeing Frank at Starbucks. Janice has been “in her head” after coming from the therapists office. She is still trying to put all the pieces together and she’s distracted. She sees Frank. She’s surprised and happy. Take this moment in. Respond to it. This response is called the active first beat and this is the moment when the pianist begins playing the introduction. In this song, the introduction is short but you’ll need to fill this moment with an action. You must always remember to give some consideration to the introduction of a song and the ride-out. The first verb in our analysis is “to awaken.” You are awakening Frank during the first chunk of the lyrics but possibly the introduction is you awakening from the haze you’ve been in. I have found that doing an improvisation with fellow actor helps to make this first active beat more solid. Choose a partner and explain the situation, giving them an idea of what you need for them to do. Play the scene before the song begins. At the appropriate time, the pianist starts the introduction and the scene partner can stay in the scene. Your focus is on them but, just as a gentle reminder, we don’t always look at the person we’re talking to. Your focus, however, is still on them. Once the pre-beat is secure and you are confident in knowing what this moment is, repeat the exercise without the scene partner.
Xerox the following four pages for each song you wish to prepare. It will help to organize your work. A clean PDF of this form can be found on Neal’s website.
The Actor’s Homework: Worksheet
Write the lyrics in prose form, carefully observing punctuation marks. Song title:
Composer/Lyricist: Show title: Write lyrics below
What is this song about objectively? In other words, looking at the lyrics and without adding your interpretation, what is the song about and what happens? One or two sentences.
Subjective Interpretation A. Who is the singer? Describe the singer using clear, definite statements.
B. Who are you singing to? Choose a person or persons that will create interest and conflict.
C. When is it?
D. Where are you? The more specific your location, the more real it will be for you.
E. Why do you need to say these words? Obviously, the stronger the need, the better.
F. What changes during the song?
G. What do you want? What will happen if you don’t get it?
H. Why sing this song now and not yesterday or tomorrow?
Defining Sentence This is a song about_____________________, me, that (continue the sentence below)
Being Specific What is the arc of your song? Winning, losing, “ending up where you started”, or an serendipity arc?
Looking at the sheet music, do a simple analysis of the form and describe below using lyrics as structural markers. Look for verse and refrain in songs before 1970 and for verse and chorus in pop/rock inflected songs after 1970. Also look for repeated musical sections, changes in tempo, changes in style, and changes in accompaniment.
Read the lyric from the first page of this worksheet and make decisions as to where beat changes are to occur. Deciding where beat changes happen is a delicate balance between musical understanding, dramatic understanding and intuition. Summarize the beats below. You may want to include a few lyrics that indicate beat changes.
Choose a strong, active verb for each beat and write that verb next to the beat on the previous page. Some of the verbs you may choose from: Convince
Do the 6 Song as Monologue activities on page 12. Briefly describe the three pre-beat events: seeing the event (what do you see?), taking it in (what effect does it have on you?) and responding to it (what is your response?).
Improvise the pre-beat with a friend. This will help you physicalize each event.
Excavating the Song: Music Preparation The goal of this chapter is to give some helpful suggestions for preparing a song musically for performance or audition. The order of the steps you take as you begin exploring a new song is up to you but you must find a process that you are comfortable with and one that leaves no stone uncovered. There are those that advocate starting with music an d those that say you must begin with the lyrics. My own preference is to begin with learning the basics of the song (pitches, rhythms an d form) before moving to the process outlined in the previous chapter. Then I like for students to come back to the music and work on things such as phrasing and exploring how the musical information in the song can inform the overall performance. I will describe learning a song from two perspectives. The first is for those who do not read music. The second is for those who understand basic music theory and have at least rudimentary skills at the piano. At whatever skill level you are currently, do your best to improve your skills and knowledge in music theory, musicianship and piano. It will benefit you greatly and make learning a new song much easier. Learning a new song for those who do not read music
Have a pianist record your melody on to a recording device at a moderate tempo and very precisely. Then have the pianist record the accompaniment. Oftentimes sheet music is published with the melody in the piano accompaniment. If that is the case, this accompaniment will be easier to follow as you will be able to hear the melody. If this is not the case, they should record the actual accompaniment or add some melody if they have that skill. Listen for a sense of style, beat, rhythm and tempo. You may want the pianist to record just the introduction to the song in addition so you can isolate the music you will hear before you sing. 1. On your own while looking at the sheet music, sing to the recording of the melody on a neutral syllable such as “lah” or “dee.” Choose an open vowel with a preceding consonant. We do this to separate music from lyrics and to concentrate solely on the melody. It is very easy to move too quickly and miss a step along the way. 2. When you have mastered this, begin singing the lyrics with the melody-only recording. 3. Now move to the recording of full accompaniment. Sing with this recording on a neutral syllable. 4. Then sing the lyrics with the full accompaniment. Additional activities with a pianist may include the following once you have done these steps: 1. Sing a word or syllable and have the pianist play the pitch on the piano after you sing it. Move to the next word or syllable, gradually increasing tempo. We do this to check pitch accuracy. 2. Explore singing the song at different tempos. Faster for ballads, slower for up tempo songs. Don’t go too fast or slow. We do this to make sure you musicianship is secure. 19
Learning a new song for those with moderate to advanced musical skills
I suggest starting with rhythm. First, study shorter passages, taking note of the differing rhythmic values. If anything is confusing for you, take the time to figure it out before moving on. Have a friend help you if needed. Then take this smaller passage and speak the rhythms in a method you are comfortable with. Most people find the method of calling rhythms on a beat by their number placement in the bar such as 1, 2, 3, 4 in 4/4 time. Eighth-notes are subdivided by placing an “and” between each number. 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. Sixteenth-notes are further subdivided in this manner: 1 e & a, 2 e & a, and so forth. 1. Speak the words in rhythm. 2. While seated at the piano, play pitches slowly while singing on a neutral syllable such as “lah” or “dee.” If this is difficult for you, you might play short phrases and sing them back. Or you might play a pitch and then sing it before moving on to the next pitch. Please check key signatures and accidentals carefully. It’s not crucial that you do the song in rhythm at this point. Concentrate on the melody. 3. Next, combine melody with rhythm, starting slowly for accuracy and building in tempo. 4. If you can play your accompaniment, record the accompaniment on to a recording device. If not, have a pianist do this for you. Listen for a sense of style, b eat, rhythm and tempo. Study, or better yet, play the introduction of the song so that you know what you will hear before you sing. 5. Sing the song with accompaniment on a neutral syllable. 6. Sing the song with accompaniment using the lyrics. Additional activities with a pianist may include the following once you have done these steps: 1. Sing a word or syllable and play the pitch on the piano after you sing it. Move to the next word or syllable gradually increasing tempo. We do this to check pitch accuracy. 2. Explore singing the song at different tempos. Faster for ballads, slower for up tempo songs. Don’t go too fast or too slow. We do this to make sure you musicianship is secure. 3. If the sheet music has chord symbols that you can interpret, accompany yourself with simple chords.
Too often, singers do not take adequate time in learning a song accurately. It is crucial to your success that you do this. Directors and music directors have little patience with someone who should be ready to sing a song but is singing a passage with wrong notes. You will be working with professional musicians and you are ex pected to interact with them as colleagues and as the professional musician you need to be. Once you have successfully completed these activities, you will have the skill to tackle the challenges you will face once you begin your acting work.
Important Musical Terms Tempi Largo Larghetto Adagio Andante Moderato Allegretto Allegro Presto Maestoso
Very slow (quarter note c. 40-60) Less slow than Largo (c. 60-70) Slow (between Largo and Andante) a walking tempo (c. 76-108) Moderate tempo Moderately fast, often playful in nature Fast (c. 110-130) Very fast (c. 125-160) Majestic, usually medium slow
Tempo-related terms Lunga Long, generally referring to a long pause Caesura (//) Indicates a break or stop before proceeding L’istesso tempo The same tempo as before Ritardando Getting slower (rit.) Ritenuto (riten.) Getting slower but more sudden and extreme than rit. Rallentando (rall.) Gradual slowing of the tempo Accelerando (accel.) Gradually getting faster A tempo Returning to original tempo, usually after a rit. or rall. Alla Breve Two beats per measure with the half-note getting the beat (cut-time) Più mosso More motion Articulations Fermata Legato Staccato Accent Marcato Sforzando Tenuto Trill G.P. Arpeggio
Indicates a note is to be prolonged beyond its normal duration Smoothly, connected Detached (.) Emphasis, usually to play louder than the current dynamic (>) marked, stressed, emphasized Forced or accented. Stronger than an accent. (Sfz. or Sf.) (ten.) Held or sustained, a note is given its full value Rapid alternation between the note and the note above Grand pause. A complete stop The playing of successive members of a chord separately
Segno Coda Form Da Capo Dal Segno D.S. al Coda Coda Verse Refrain Vamp
Indication to return to the beginning (D.C.) Indication to return to the sign (D.S.) Indication to return to the sign and then to Coda at the indicated location The ending of a piece The first part of a Standard song, setting up the dramatic situation The main body of a Standard song, almost always carrying the title A repeated accompanimental phrase
Style Con moto A piacere Ad libitum Risoluto Sempre Rubato Animato Con brio Dolce Divisi Molto Parlando
With motion Literally, as you please, similar to ad lib. but referring to tempo rather than pitch Left to the performer’s discretion (ad lib.), often implying improvisation Resolute, energetic Always Rhythmically free, literally means “robbed” Lively, spirited, animated With fire and dash, spirited Sweetly Divided, indication of divided parts, the opposite of unison Very (molto rit., becoming very slow) Indication that the singer should take on a more speech-like manner
Dynamics Forte Fortissimo Mezzo forte Piano Pianissimo Mezzo piano Crescendo Decrescendo Diminuendo Morendo A niente
loud very loud medium loud soft very soft medium soft getting louder getting softer (dim.) getting softer Dying away, getting softer Dying away to nothing 22
Other Terms Con Poco Moto Assai Hemiola
With (con moto) Little ( poco a poco crescendo) motion Much, very much ( Allegro Assai) A musical gesture wherein a rhythmic figure with a duple metric pulse replaces one with a triple metric pulse. Literally with the voice. Indication that the accompaniment should allow freedom for the soloist
You may wish to purchase an inexpensive dictionary of musical terms such as The Hal Leonard Pocket Music Dictionary. New York: Hal Leonard, 1993.
Musical Form in Songs
An analysis of form in the songs you sing will help you in many ways. It will assist you in memorizing the song musically and lyrically and it will help you to understand and map out the dramatic arc of the song. Fortunately, most songs fall into two categories: 1. Verse/Refrain, the dominant song form from 1900 through much of the theatre songs of today. 2. Pop form, or Verse/Chorus/Bridge form. This became the primary song organizing form for songs in the Rock and Roll era (1950s to today). Verse/Refrain Songs
The verse is the musical passage that sets up the dramatic action of the refrain. In many ways, this form owes its structure to the operatic convention of recitative and aria where the recitative advances the plot and the aria explores the emotions of the characters. In theatre music for most of the 20th century, the verse was used to help bridge the gap between spoken dialogue and full song. The verse lies someplace between speech and song and is often freer in rhythm. If you moved directly from dialogue to full song with no transition, the results may be laughable. The refrain always contains the title of the song, either at the beginning or at the end of the first section. It is also the melody one remembers most frequently. Here is an example, Rodgers and Hart’s “You’re Nearer” from Too Many Girls (1939). VERSE Time is a healer but it cannot heal my heart. My mind says I've forgotten you and then I feel my heart. The miles lie between us, but your fingers touch my own. You're nearer far away from me, for you're too much my own. REFRAIN You're nearer than my head to my pillow. Nearer than the wind is to the willow. Dearer than the rain is to the earth below. Precious as the sun to the things that grow. You're nearer than the ivy to the wall is. Nearer than the winter to the fall is. Leave me, but when you're away you'll know You're nearer for I love you so. Refrains are usually 32 bars and can usually be divided into four sections. The similarity or dissimilarity of the music in these sections helps us to determine the form. Most refrains are
AABA or ABAB in form. This means that every A section is more or less the same music with only a few differences. The B sections are contrasting musically. It is worth noting that the AABA form is perfectly suited to theatre music since composers assume that their audience does not know a song before entering the theatre thus you are given two chances to hear the same music (and often with a similar lyrical idea) before moving on to something contrasting. The B section introduces contrasting music material and is often a chance for a change in the dramatic action to occur. When the final familiar A section returns, a new resolve or change of perspective has occurred in the B section. This combination of familiar music with heightening of the dramatic arc is incredibly satisfying and a very useful tool in story telling.
Pop-inflected Song Forms
The basic building blocks of Pop-inflected song forms are the verse, chorus and bridge. Please note that the verse in this form functions differently than verse in the previous form. Obviously this form comes from popular music from the Rock era, beginning in the 1950s. It is the dominant form for most radio music to today. Often the verse presents the situation while the chorus presents the resolution of the situation. Then there is usually a repeated verse with the same music but with new lyrics. This is followed by a repeat of the chorus. A bridge may or may not be introduced in order to present new material. The difficulty with this form is that we have been presented with the resolution of the situation early in the song—by the first chorus. The dramatic arc is somewhat disappointing when it comes so early. This is a challenge to the singer and one you must keep in mind when singing a song with this form. When recently seeing Rock of Ages, a new jukebox musical of 1980s pop songs, I was pleased in the way the creators managed to keep songs from peaking too early through some ingenious methods such as introducing new singers into a song or by allowing the choruses to have different meanings and/or purposes. Musicality
After you have learned a song musically and done your actor’s homework, it is a good idea to go back to do some work on the musicality of your song. This may include working with a pianist to make sure that musical details such as pitches and rhythm have not been lost as you were focusing on the acting work. It will also mean looking at phrasing. It also may mean looking deeper in the musical information that the accompaniment and melody contain. Music, all music, contains many kinds of subjective emotional and story-telling information that is worth exploring. The music of a well-written song is the music o f your character in the given situation. The music is you. You must take this into account when putting the finishing touches on your song. For instance, the flowing music in “I Had a Dream About You” may represent the constant forward motion of a car ride. The repeated two-note figure in “Just a Housewife” may 25
be the boredom of the character. The accompanimental figure in “Talent” may be both the motion of the train and the ambitious drive of the character. Arrangements of show music are set. The actor does not have the liberty of changing the accompaniment, the harmony or the style of a song in a musical. In cabaret styles, however, you are completely free to reinterpret songs in order to make them your very own. That is what we want in a cabaret setting and if you are fortunate enough to work with a talented pianist/arranger/ music director, you can do an infinite number of treatments to well-known songs and make them completely new. When you are asked to sing a song in a musical (i.e., not in a cabaret setting), you must look for the musical details that the composer has given you which inform both the character and the situation. It must appear as if you, the character, are spontaneously creating the words and the music in the moment as a result of the dramatic action. Phrasing
We use this term to refer to the small and large decisions a singer makes regarding the melody. As well-phrased song communicates the character’s situation, their decisions, their tactics and their objective. We want everything that we do to cumulatively tell the same story. For instance, a breath in the middle of a phrase about what a character wants may disrupt the thought and confuse the audience. Singing a song about one’s love of another with a staccato articulation may confuse the audience as this articulation communicates something different entirely. Some of the following steps may seem like a repeat from earlier activities but since our focus is now on phrasing, the steps are helpful to repeat. Steps toward creating a well-phrased song: 1. Silently read the lyric while making observations about rhyme and alliteration. These two devices serve to make these words more important. Is there a reason that these words are more important? Good lyricists don’t rhyme unimportant words. 2. You may wish to do the first four monologue activities on page 12. 3. Without accompaniment, sing the song following the dramatic action of the lyric. If the action speeds up, allow the melody to speed up. If the action calls for a whispered tone, sing the melody with a whispered voice. The purpose of this activity is to match the action of song with your vocal choices. At this point, it is a good idea to decide, if you haven’t already, where you will breathe. Making choices based on the lyric rather than the necessity for air is preferable. 4. Repeat this step asking the pianist to follow you and the dramatic action. If the action is harsh, ask them to play harshly. If the action is gentle, ask them to play gently. 5. Sing the song again with the printed accompaniment while retaining all of the colors you have found in previous steps. The danger when doing this step is to lose all the subtle variations in timber and articulation you had earlier. Do not allow the tyranny of the printed page to overtake you.
Additional activities: 1.Imagine your song played by an instrument. What instrument would that be? What information about style and articulation does this give you? 2.Try singing your song at a different tempo or in a different style. This can help to free up your phrasing and/or give you different options.
Preparing your Music for a Pianist
• Music for audition and classwork should be placed in a moderately sized three-ring binder. You should not use a published book for an audition but if you use a book for classwork, make sure that the book will stay open on the piano. • Please do not use the extremely large binders. • Music should be copied double-sided onto heavier paper or placed in plastic sheets. If you use plastic sheets, purchase non-glare sheets. • If the music is just two pages, present it such that the pianist does not need to turn pages. • Check the tops and bottoms of the page carefully to ensure that no music is cut off. Reduce the copy ratio as needed. 89% generally works. • If you are going to do a shortened cutting of a song, prepare this cutting such that there is no other music on the page. This will help avoid confusion at an audition. • Any cutting of a song should also include a separate copy of the full version of the song in case you are asked to sing the whole song. • Eliminate extraneous markings on your music. • Clearly indicate introductions and endings. • Create a table of contents and use tabs so that you can quickly find any song.
I often find that singers adhere to one of these two extremes regarding listening to cast albums when preparing a song. The first extreme is to learn the song exclusively by listening. This is to be avoided because the singer on the recording may sing wrong notes or they may phrase the song differently than what is written on the page, or worse. You always need to go back to the printed music to see what that composer has written. This is your most important source. The other extreme is to avoid recordings all together for fear of imitation. This is understandable, but unnecessary. The best option is to learn a song musically and then listen to the cast album (or revivals or other great singers singing your song) for clues about performance practice such as style, tempo, and vocal timbre. Stay open to as many options as possible.
Voice Type Relating to Character Type
Composers often choose to write in a range and style that will inform the audience about your character. For instance, a tenor is rarely chosen for older characters. Sopranos are rarely associated with “bad girls.” The following list is from Acting in Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course listed in the bibliography. Bass: Older characters and villains. Less used in c ontemporary writing. Baritone: Romantic and mature male characters. Tenor: Younger male and comic characters (in more traditional musicals). Now the dominant male voice type in contemporary musicals. Lyric baritone: (sometimes called bari-tenor ): The more recent voice type for romantic male characters, most often used in rock musicals and poperettas. Legitimate lyric soprano: Almost exclusively the province of romantic female roles in traditional musicals. Much less frequently used in contemporary writing except of deliberate choices of color and character type. Pop soprano: Ingénues and romantic characters in contemporary musicals often sing in a light, high belt with strong mixing of soprano and belt qualities. Belt or mezzo soprano: Strongly associated with comic characters or with secondary romantic storylines. As musicals have come to include rock and other top 40 styles, the voice type has come to cover a much broader range of character types. We see it used in two major ways: Broadway belt: This type of belt voice is commonly associated with singers like Ethel Merman, Judy Garland and other women of their eras. It is roughly the equivalent o f the brass section of a band. Rock belt: This women’s voice type includes almost all colors of vocal expression in popular music since the mid-1960s when female singers began singing almost exclusively in the lower register, leaving the soprano range behind. This ha s now become the dominant range for most musicals since about 1980.
Excavating the Song: Cabaret Styles In the final year at Webster University, musical theatre majors will be asked to create a cabaret of about 5 songs or under 15 minutes. These cabarets are an excellent opportunity for you to explore what is unique and special about you as a performer and as a person. Preparing and doing your show will help in preparing for the senior showcase. Casting agents want to see who you are and what you bring into the room, not just what skills you have. Your skills as an actor and a singer are vital to a great performance and yet what you do in this opportunity is different from anything else you will do at Webster. You are not preparing a role or presenting a character. You are YOU on the stage. This can be scary—like working without a net. But, it can be thrilling for you and your audience. You will prepare with your music director, Neal Richardson, arrangements for your show which may be very different from the way we are used to hearing a particular song. This is one of the great joys in seeing a show—for the audience to hear a song in a brand new way that is from your unique perspective. One of my favorites ways to think of cabaret is as a great first date. It is as if someone who you really like has said, “So tell me about yourself. I’m really interested.” On a first date there are things that are appropriate to reveal and things you want to save for later. One common trap is to make cabaret akin to psychotherapy. Instead, keep it light, interesting, authentic, genuine, and most of all, YOU. Lastly, no matter what kind of song you sing, you must have a personal connection to it and a point of view. If you sing “Being Green” from Sesame Street , for instance, you cannot sing it from Kermit the Frog’s perspective. You can, however, make the song about how you used to be afraid to be yourself completely around your friends for fear of rejection. Pop songs especially can be interpreted in many varied and interesting way. The First Question The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “What do I want to say? What is special about my life experience that can hold the attention of someone that does not know me?” This last thing is very important since there is nothing worse than a cabaret of inside jokes and stories about things that an audience member may not know anything about. It has been said that any of our lives is fascinating enough to make a great movie. I believe this is true. The difficult task is to edit your story and present it in a way that is interesting, compelling and entertaining. You will be doing your show for an audience that includes many of your friends. Put that aside for this opportunity and act as if you don’t know anyone. There will likely be people you don’t know in the audience. Do your cabaret for them. Look for ways that you can tell positive stories that are universal in nature so that the audience can relate to you. The most exciting thing for me is when I can be reminded of what is important in life without being preached at. Song Selection The songs you choose for your cabaret can come from anywhere…musical theatre, pop, children’s songs, folk, etc. You will need to shape your ideas so that every song is there for a reason, tells a specific story and fits into the arc of your cabaret. There needs to be a beginning, 29
middle and an end. A variety of styles, tempos and moods is crucial. Please don’t choose too many ballads. It is good to choose a mixture of well-known and less well-known material. Present familiar songs in ways that the listener can he ar it freshly and such that it tells your story. Patter
Your patter, or the spoken, linking material, needs to be well-written and memorized. You may not improvise your patter. Both Lara and Neal are experienced in writing patter and we will ask you to submit your patter for comments and editing. It should be a mixture of funny and serious. Vocal Style and the Microphone In keeping with the axiom that cabaret is the “art of being yourself, on purpose,” your singing style needs to match your speaking timbre. Use your true, authentic voice unless you choose to do an impersonation or something for comedic effect. In cabaret, we use a microphone so that one doesn’t need to project in the same way you must do if you are in a big theatre. Think of the audience as being very close to you. It is an intimate art form. Keep these things in mind as you are preparing your show vocally. Your blocking and movement choices need to be informed by the use of a microphone. Econo my of movement is key. Less is more. There are essentially four positions for cabaret singing: standing with the microphone in your hand, standing with the microphone in the stand, seated with the microphone in your hand, and seated with the microphone in the stand. Each one of these positions communicates something different. The seated position with the microphone in your h and communicates a casual intimacy. The seated position with the microphone in a stand communicates that the song is very significant and that you want to remove any distractions from the ideas in the song. Emotion There is a delicate balance at work in terms of emotional display. We, the audience, want to know there is a living, breathing human like us on stage—someone that has experienced the full range of life's ups and downs. But too much sad emotion is out of place and can make the audience uncomfortable. In terms of emotional colors, once again, variety is encouraged. The last thing you want from your show is to allow self-indulgence to creep in. A Final Word The audience wants to be moved, wants their hearts be touched, and may even want to be moved to tears. Mostly though, they want to be entertained. Some think of “entertaining” as a bad word or an unworthy objective. But most audience members who go to a show go to hear a few good tunes, to laugh and to have a few drinks (but not at our show). They want to feel , but mostly, they want to be entertained.
Go to Neal’s homepage for links to great cabaret performances and other resources.
Audition Book Song Categories Neal Richardson, with Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera The following song types should appear in your well-organized audition book. 1. Operatic aria or classical art song . If it's not in English, you should know what every word means. The piece should be something that shows technique and range. 2. Operetta. The Merry Widow, The Desert Song , The Student Prince and others by Romberg, Friml and Victor Herbert. 3. Gilbert and Sullivan . These songs show diction, vocal technique and a sense of humor. Women, select a song that fits your vocal range and color. Men, choose a patter song and a ballad. 4. Early Musical Comedy/Tin Pan Alley or a Vaudeville Novelty Song . Choose an up-tempo song that is catchy and straightforward that shows your charm, personality and sense of humor. This is especially important for character men and women. Sheet music can be downloaded at library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hasm/ 5. Musical Comedy Ballad and Up-tempo , pre-1943. These songs are commonly called Standards but should not be confused with Golden Era musical theatre. Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are the places to start. You want to find something that you can both act and sing well…something that shows your voice and your “essence.” Up-tempos should be something that allows your body to respond to the rhythm of the song. 6. Golden Age ballad and up tempo . Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Loesser, late Porter, late Irving Berlin and many, many others. Choose something from a book musical between 1943 and the late-1960s that fits your type. 7. Top 40 songs from these different eras. These songs are not necessarily from shows. A. 1940s/1950s pre-rock standards . Radio hits from this period that were not from shows. B. Early Rock and Roll . Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Early Beatles. C. 1960s/1970s pop rock . Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, mid- to late-Beatles and others. D. Country and Western . From any period, by keep it faithful to the original. Don't make fun of the style. Choose something that's “real” country and not pop/rock Country of the last few years. That style should go in the next category. E. Pop/Rock 1980s to today . Some suggestions include Elton John, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Bonny Raitt, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Rick Springfield, Melissa Ethridge, Phil Collins, Queen, Carly Simon, Donna Summer, Sheena Easton, Janis Joplin, Beach Boys, Kelly Clarkson, Diane Warwick, Tina Turner, Styx, Christopher Cross, Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Kenny Loggins and Michael Jackson. 8. Sondheim. Choose a song that shows intelligence, maturity and strong musicianship. N.B. Funny Thing...Forum doesn't qualify for this category as it is so different from the style of the rest of his shows.
9. Rock Musical from the late 60s to the mid-80s. Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Godspell, Hair, Dreamgirls, Chess, etc. This is about the combination of singing style and acting skills. 10. 1960s/1970s Show tunes (Ballad and up-tempo, not pop/rock) Kander and Ebb, Cy Coleman, Jule Styne, Jerry Hermann. 11. Contemporary musical theatre (Ballad and up-tempo). Frank Wildhorn, Jason Robert Brown, Ahrens & Flaherty, Michael John LaChiusa and others. Choose songs that reveal something true about you. 12. Disney or film tune . Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, the Sherman Brothers or any great song from a movie (especially 1960s to 1980s). These songs are often very straightforward and well known. The point is to sing a well-known song well so that they can really hear the strength your voice. 13. Contemporary Art Song . Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, Georgia Stitt, John Bucchino. Something that shows both acting skills, singing skills and strong musicianship. 14. Post-millennium (since 2000). Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Joe Iconis, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Peter Mills, Seth Bisen-Hersh, Chris Miller, Scott Alan and many others. See Appendix 3. 15. Specialty number . This could be anything that shows something unique and special about your abilities. Yodel, high soprano, comedy, patter, super high belt are some possibilities. Be creative and outside the box. 16. The Money Cutting . Regardless of style or period, this short cutting (you need a 32-bar version, a 16-bar version and an 8-bar version) shows you at your very best vocally and matches your personality and strengths as a performer. Some final thoughts and instructions •Depending on your vocal and character type, it may not be necessary to have absolutely every one of these categories. You should have most of them however. •Prepare each song in its complete form (60 to 120 seconds. You don't need to do repeats), a 32-bar cutting and a 16-bar cutting. •Music should be copied double-sided. If the music is on just two pages, present it in your book such that the pianist doesn't need to turn pages. •To avoid confusion, eliminate extraneous markings o n your music. Clearly indicate introductions and endings. •Music should be photocopied onto heavier paper or in plastic sheets. None of the music should be cut off the page. Check the tops and bottoms of the pages carefully. Reduce the copy ratio as needed. 89% generally works.
Go to Neal’s homepage for a printable audition book insert with this list.
Appendix 2 Choice Songs
This ongoing project is a list of songs that came about as a challenge presented to me almost daily by students: “What are some good, not overdone, songs for me.” This list contains strong pieces that are out-of-print, unpublished or otherwise rare. If I were editing my own musical theatre anthology, these songs would be in it. Please click “Choice Songs” on Neal’s website for the sheet music for these songs. Choice Songs-Men 102 songs (7/15/09)
A Normal Life (Opposite of Sex) - A wonderful modern musical theatre “I Want” song. A Piece of the Action (Life, The) - A funky pop/rock Cy Coleman tune, start in measure 17 Absalom (Glorious Ones, The) - Folky musical theatre ballad, a great tune. Alone (A Year with Frog and Toad) - Very sweet song. It starts abruptly but it works. An Ordinary Guy (Amour) - Rare and wonderful. Use the recording’s lyrics at the end. Anytime (Elegies) - Also in the Women’s section in a lower key. At the Fountain (Sweet Smell of Success) A powerhouse show-stopper “I Want” song. Boys and Girls Like You and Me (State Fair) - Unsung Rodgers and Hammerstein Coffee Shop Nights (Curtains) - Nice song for a character a ctor. Cold Enough to Snow (Life with Mikey) - From the movie, music by Alan Menken. Come Back to Me (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever) - Great character uptempo Come On In from the Outside (Taboo) - Great Pop belt Ballad. A group number in the show. Danglin' - A great and very rare Maury Yeston light Pop song. My transcription. Different (Honk) - Musical theatre ballad Drift away (Grey Gardens) - Sung by the piano player-in-residence at Grey Gardens. Evermore Without You (Woman in White) A very fine Andrew Lloyd Webber Song. A very wide range asked for. Fabulous Feet (The Tap Dance Kid) - A fine uptempo song for a male dancer. Flair (Starting Here Starting Now) - Great piece. A contemporary charm song. Flight (Craig Carnelia) - More cabaret than musical theatre but a great piece. Floozies (Grass Harp) Very groovy. Guido's Song (Nine) A masterpiece, difficult baritone. Half as Big as Life (Promises, Promises) - The “I Want” song from this show. Highway Miles (The Flood) - Very good Pop tenor uptempo. How I Am (Little Women) Character uptempo I Cannot Hear the City (Sweet Smell of Success) Jazzy ballad I Can't Recall (Tale of Two Cities) - Really the only stand-alone song from this misfire musical. Similar in style to Les Misérables. I Can't Stand Still (Footloose) - Pop/Rock uptempo tenor I Don't Believe in Heroes Anymore (3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down) - Ballad I Miss New York (Songs From An Unmade Bed) - Very rare and somewhat cabaret. 33
I Ran (Little Fish) - Difficult, with a Rock edge. I Think I Can Play this Part (Goodbye Girl, The) - It’s a pop ballad although it doesn’t look like it on the page. I Think I Like Her (Summer of '42) - Wonderful song from an unknown show I Was Here (Glorious Ones, The) - A perfect song for a singing actor. If I Have to Live Alone (The Baker's Wife) - Baritone, character ballad If She Really Knew Me (They're Playing Our Song) A short Pop ballad If the World Were Like the Movies (My Favorite Year) - Another character actor piece. I'll Be There (Pirate Queen, The) - Poperetta style, big voice required. I'm In Love (The Rothschilds) Charming uptempo baritone rarity Infinite Joy (Elegies) - A good theatrical ballad usually sung by women. (Higher key) I've Got to Find a Reason (Carnival) - Powerful high baritone “I Want” song Just One Night (Doonesbury) - Pop-ish ballad Last Tuesday (Brett Macias) - Contemporary story song by a Webster graduate. Later (Little Night Music, A) Difficult tenor aria Laura, Laura (High Fidelity) - Pop musical theatre ballad from a great lesser-known score. Laura, Laura (High Fidelity) - Very fine sincere folky ballad. Learning to Let Go (Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Que ens) - Gospel tinged ballad. Although this turns into a group number, it works perfectly well as a solo. Little Fish (Little Fish) - A Michael John LaChiusa masterpiece. Art song-like. Lost in the Darkness/I Need to Know (Jekyll and Hyde) Poperetta style Lost in the Wilderness (Children of Eden) - A great pop/rock up tempo Love Was a Song (Brooklyn) - An unusual song. Dramatic ballad. More Prokofiev than Pop. Love Who You Love (Man of No Importance - A modern classic. Perfect. Lucky (Lucky Stiff) My Book (Jeff Blumenkrantz) - Comic, contemporary, uptempo with lots of spoken lyrics My Dogs (Elegies) - Contemporary comic song about a very sad subject. My Rules (The Goodbye Girl) Uptempo pop number. Tenor Need To Know (Weird Romance) - contemporary patter song Never the Luck (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) - charming waltz Never Will I Marry (Greenwillow) - Rare, but powerful baritone showpiece. New Words (In the Beginning) A Maury Yeston classic, musical theatre ballad Not Afraid (Easter Rising) - Very good contemporary musical theatre ballad Not Quite (Stepping Out - The Musical) Good ballad from an unknown show Oh, To Be Stupid Again (Songs from an Unmade Bed) - Written by SPRING AWAKENING composer, Duncan Sheik. Once in a Lifetime (Stop the World (I Want To Get Off) Pass The Football (Wonderful Town) Proud Lady (The Baker's Wife) Right Before My Eyes (Lestat) - From Elton John’s flop musical. High tessitura. Sail Me Away (Lestat) - Another one from the same musical. I like this one better since it’s not about vampirism. Sarah (Civil War, The) - Country-tinged tenor aria. 34
Seeds (A Year with Frog and Toad) - a favorite Shooting Star (cut from Hercules) - A good one to do instead of “Go the Distance.” Take a Chance on Me (Little Women) - Difficult and high, tenor Take Care of This House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) - Beautiful baritone aria. Talent (Road Show) A wonderful tenor piece from the newest Sondheim show, Up tempo and patter-y That's For Me (State Fair) - Wonderful male ingenue ballad. Golden Era. The Bus (Caroline or Change) A masterpiece, tenor spiritual, probably more suited to an AfricanAmerican. The Call of the Sea (No, No Nannette) The Kid Inside (Is There Life After High School) Pop tenor moving ballad. The Lady Must Be Mad (Illyria) - Contemporary musical theatre. Brilliant The One I Love (Hello Again) - Start with pickup to page 2. Works without the duet. The Sensitive Song (Cops, the Musical) - Post-millennium comedy song The Streets of Dublin (Man of No Importance, A) - Tenor, pop/rock up tempo There is a Sucker Born Every Minute (Barnum) - An old-fashioned show tune. This is New (Lady in the Dark) Today is the Day (Lonely Rhymes) Post-millennium comic story song in a march style. We Can Talk To Each Other (Starting Here Starting Now) - Comic. He says how wonderful it is that they can talk but he never lets her speak. Welcome to the World (Man of No Importance, A) - Another one from this great show. What Am I Doing (Closer Than Ever) - Contemporary story song about obsession. When the Earth Stopped Turning (Elegies) - Contemporary story song Will That Ever Happen To Me? (Summer of '42) Charming “I Want” song With You (Pippin) - Pop ballad. Wouldn't You Like to Be on Broadway (Street Scene)
Choice Songs-Women (124 songs 7/15/09)
A Place Called Home (A Christmas Carol) - A simple, warm, mix-y song. All the Men in My Life (Evil Dead) - A silly song with a 60’s groove. It works fine without the men’s part. Almost Everything I Need (Alphabet City Song Cycle) - Contemporary musical theatre art song Anything (Triumph of Love) Great contemporary musical theatre “I Want” song, will need cuts Anytime (Elegies) - Good Bill Finn song. Also appears in Men’s section in a higher key. Are You Still Holding My Hand (Bright Lights Big City) Moody, mix pop ballad Around the World (Grey Gardens) - A difficult piece for a mature actor/singer Blue Hair (The Black Suits) - Contemporary cha racter uptempo, Post-millennium Burden of Life (Man of No Importance, A) Comic, belt number. A favorite. Cut interior scene. Cautiously Optimistic (The Taxi Cabaret) Post-millennium charm song Chain of Love (The Grass Harp) - A lovely legit Soprano song. 35
Chanson (The Baker's Wife) - Beautiful Stephen Schwartz song with some French. Coffee (See What I Wanna See) - A difficult(!) Michael John LaChiusa song. Not for the faint of heart. County Fair (Das Barbecu) - Good Country musical theatre ballad Crimson Kiss (Lestat) from Elton John’s flop musical Easy Money (The Life) - Cut from measure 55 to measure 80 Even Though (I Love You Because) - Musical theatre pop mix. Everyday is Night (Birds of Paradise) Fair Warning (Destry Rides Again) Character up tempo Goodbye, Emil (Romance, Romance) - Quasi-operetta. . Hide and Seek (Daniel Green) Post-millennium story song, particularly good Hold Down the Fort (john and jen) - Very strong piece from a great show. Start at measure 9. Hostess With the Mostest (Call Me Madam) - Brassy and Belty How Did I Get to Where I Am (Marguerite) A beautiful Michel Legrand ballad from the British production I Don't Know How To Help You (Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens) I Got Love (Purlie) - A terrific uptempo Pop/Soul song. Very wide range. I Had a Dream About You (December Songs) A masterpiece, pop-y art song I Hate Him (Destry Rides Again) Very fast character song I Miss the Mountains (Next To Normal) Great pop/rock song for mature actor I Never Knew His Name (Brooklyn) Pop ballad I Read (Passion) - Difficult (in every way) Sondheim mezzo piece I Resolve (She Loves Me) Character Golden Era uptempo, belt I Slept With Someone Who Handled Kurt Cobain's Intervention (High Fidelity) - Sincere and weird. I Still Believe in Love (They're Playing Our Song) - Nice Marvin Hamlish ballad I Sure Like the Boys (A, My Name is Alice) - Difficult to read but worth the effort. I Want More (Lestat) from Elton John’s flop musical, this one is great if you ignore the whole vampire thing I Want You (My Life with Albertine) Mezzo art-y character musical theatre waltz I Wish It So (Juno) A great lesser-known "I Want" song I Won't Mind (The Other Franklin) Beautiful song recorded by Audra McDonald I'd Rather Watch You (The Adding Machine) A quirky, quasi-1930s rhythm ballad If Only (The Little Mermaid) - An adaptation for female soloist (Ariel) of the quartet from Act II. Lovely Disney-type tune. I'll Never Have That Chance (Lestat) from Elton John’s flop musical I'm Not At All in Love (Pajama Game) - This is really a group number but it works well with some edits as a solo number. In a Perfect World (The Alchemists) Post-millennium Is It Too Late? (My Life with Albertine) Contemporary classical/legit soprano dramatic ballad It Feels Like Home (John Bucchino) - Beautiful ballad. Not from a show. It Might As Well Be Spring (State Fair) - Perfect ingénue song It Would Have Been Wonderful (Annie Warbucks) - Challenging dramatic ballad 36
It's Hurts to Be Strong (Carrie) - Surprisingly good song from a flop musical. Youthful Pop ballad. Joey is a Punk Rocker (The Black Suits) Post-millennium Pop comedic uptempo Just Not Now (I Love You Because) - You could skip the verse and start at measure 8. Kindness (Bright Lights Big City) - Pop/rock Listen to Your Heart (Young Frankenstein) - An old-fashioned Beguine (a la Cole Porter) Lying There (Edges) Post-millennium ballad Man Wanted (Copacabana) - Barry Manilow, yes! In a sultry, jazzy style. Much At All (Susan Werner) - This isn’t a musical theatre song but works very well theatrically. Low! My Book (Jeff Blumenkrantz) Comic, contemporary, uptempo with lots of spoken lyrics My Childhood (Jacques Brel) A real rarity, A mini-masterpiece. Transcribed from the revival recording My Heart is Split (The Freshman Experiment) Post-millennium ballad My House (Leonard Bernstein's Peter Pan) Beautiful musical theatre ballad My One Night Stand (WAA-MU 2008) Post-millennium story song My Own Space (The Act) Great Kander and Ebb song, similar to “A Quiet Thing” My Party Dress (Henry and Mudge) Post-millennium character story song Never Again (King David) - Alan Menken’s show is hit or miss but this is good. No Man Left for Me (Will Rogers Follies, The) - Theatre torch song, mezzo/belt Nothing Like You've Ever Known (Song and Dance) Haunting ballad Oh, To Be a Movie Star (Apple Tree, The) - Charming “I Want” song On My Way (Violet) - This is a solo version of the great VIOLET opener. Once Upon A Time (Brooklyn) - Very powerful Pop ballad, high belt. One Life to Live (Lady in the Dark) Patience (Illyria) Peter Mills’ take on Twelfth Night. Legit middle range, dramatic ballad Perfect (cut from High Fidelity) A great Pop ballad Pretty Lies (Taboo) - Wonderful Pop ballad Raven (Brooklyn) Pop ballad, very range-y, a little bit American Idol. Ready to Settle (High Fidelity) - A terrific folk/pop theatre ballad, with humor. Perfect! Remember Me (Little Fish) - The accompaniment is sketchy b ut this is a favorite. See What I Wanna See (See What I Wanna See) Serenity (Triumph of Love) - Great unknown belt piece Since You Stayed Here (Brownstone) – Sleepy Man (Robber Bridegroom) Small Town Girl (Debbie Does Dallas) - She gets an “I Want” song. Who knew! A favorite So Much Better - solo version (Legally Blond e) Great uptempo belt. Pop/Rock Someday (The Wedding Singer) - An “I Want” song in the 1980’s style of Debbie Gibson. Up tempo. Song of Me (Starting Here Starting Now) - A favorite piece. Somewhat similar to “Much More” in tone. Spark of Creation (Children of Eden)
Spring Cleaning - A very popular song among the musical theatre cognoscenti. Good for high belt. Stop and See Me (Weird Romance) Sunday Light (Alphabet City Song Cycle) Contemporary musical theatre art song Sweet Liberty (Jane Eyre) - Legit musical theatre soprano, beautiful and powerful Take The Filter Off (Jeff Blumenkrantz) Contemporary story song Tell Me It's Not True (Blood Brothers) - A British power ballad. Works fine without the chorus singers. That's Why I'm Late (WAA-MU 2008) Post-millennium story song The Boy From (The Mad Show) - A very famous but difficult to find collaboration between Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim. Difficult to read. The Greatest Practical Joke (See What I Wanna See) The Night It Had to End (Romance, Romance) - Very fine pop ballad The Smile of Your Dreams (john and jen) Dramatic belt, will need cuts The Usher From the Mezzanine (Fade Out Fade In) Charming Golden Era up tempo The World She Writes (Glorious Ones, The) Contemporary musical theatre ballad, soprano Toll (Jeff Blumenkrantz) Contemporary story song Too Much (Stepping Out - The Musical) Belt Wanting (Rags) Dramatic ballad Wanting You (Alphabet City Song Cycle) Contemporary musical theatre art song Watching the Big Parade Go By (Starting Here Starting Now) - March-like. We Had a Dream (The Life) Welcome Home (Johnny Guitar) - A Country Ballad West End Avenue (The Magic Show) - a pop-influenced dramatic up tempo What About Today (Starting Here Starting Now) Maltby and Shire, folk/rock powerful belt ballad What Did I Have? (On a Clear Day) - a jazz-style theatre ballad When I Fall In Love (Pride and Prejudice) - Contemporary musical theatre, legit soprano When the Earth Stopped Turning (Elegies) - Contemporary story song Wild and Reckless (Drat the Cat) Golden Era tango, start on pa ge 5, belt (sing octave down) Will He Like Me (She Loves Me) Golden Era classic soprano dramatic ballad Words, Words, Words (The Witches of Eastwick) Contemporary patter song You There In The Back Row (13 Days to Broadway) -
Appendix 3 New and Notable Young Composers
This is my master list of Post-millennium composers. Some were writing before 2000 but I use this term for its simplicity. Almost none of their music is in print but can be purchased from their website. The names in bold type are some of the more well k nown. The music of these composers represents a new style, a new stream, in musical theatre writing that, while sharing some commonalities with earlier styles, is unique. Some of these songs and composers might be lumped in with other contemporary composers such as Jason Robert Brown or Stephen Flaherty, but this music is a different kind of literature than composers of the preceding generation. It is often more straight-forward and directly related to melodic pop music while maximizing a dramatic situation. The vocal style is usually mix/belt for women and pop/rock for men. The best way to familiarize yourself with this music is by checking out their website and searching for their music on YouTube. The fact that few of these composers have had success on Broadway currently is due to the economics of putting on a big show and that most of their music is smaller in scale than the typica l Broadway show. Jack Aaronson Deborah Abramson Scott Alan Brad Alexander Mark Allen Gaby Alter Barbara Anselmi Michael Arden David A Austin Robert Bartley and Danny Whitman Neil Bartram and Brian Hill Rob Baumgartner Nick Blaemire Charles Bloom Jeff Blumenkrantz Eli Bolin Jeff Bowen Bobby Cronin David Dabbon Julianne Wick Davis Jared M Dembowski Chris Dimond and Michael Kooman Drew Fornarola Paul Fujimoto Jonathan Reid Gealt
www.aaronsonco.com www.deborahabramson.com www.scottalan.net www.bradalexander.com/ www.markallenmusic.com/ gabyalter.com/ www.michaelarden.net bartleywhitman.com/ www.bartramandhill.com robbaumgartner.com/ www.jamesandnick.com/ www.charlesbloomusic.com/ www.jeffblumenkrantz.com/ elibolin.net/ [title of show] is soon to be released by Hal Leonard bobbycronin.com/ www.dabbonbruett.com/
Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler www.goldrichandheisler.com/ Matt Gould Daniel Green www.danielgreenmusic.com/ Adam Gwon www.adamgwon.com/ Rob Hartmann robhartmann.com Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi hilliardandboresi.com/ Joe Iconis www.mrjoeiconis.com Aaron Jafferis and Ian Williams www.aaronjafferis.com Stephanie Johnstone www.stephaniejohnstone.com/ Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk kerrigan-lowdermilk.com Anthony King www.theanthonyking.com David Kirshenbaum Danny Larsen Brett Macias www.reverbnation.com/brettmacias Michael Mahler www.michaelmahler.com/ Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen www.myspace.com/millerandtysen J Oconer Navarro web.mac.com/joconernavarro Thomas Newmann Ryan Scott Oliver www.ryanscottoliver.com Benj Pasek and Justin Paul www.pasekandpaul.com/ Mike Pettry www.mikepettry.com/ Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham www.salzmanandcunningham.com/ Jeremy Schonfeld www.jeremyschonfeld.com/ Paul Staroba Georgia Stitt www.georgiastitt.com Jeff Thomson and Jordan Mann www.thomsonandmann Adam Wagner www.adamjwagner.com Sam Willmott www.samwillmott.com
This list with clickable links is available on Neal’s website
Musical Theatre Song Study and Audition Annotated Bibliography Alper, Steven M. Next! Auditioning for the Musical Theatre. Portsmith, NH: Heinemann, 1995. Extensive lists of dos and don’ts including what not to sing. Written by a working audition pianist. Very practical. Bell, John and Chicurel, Steven R. Music Theory for Musical Theatre. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2008. A unique book that helps with the basic musical skills one needs. It includes interesting analyses of musical theatre songs. Unnecessary if you’ve had Neal’s Musicianship for Musical Theatre class. Brunetti, David. Acting Songs. New York: David Brunetti, 2006. Decent but slim book. There are more comprehensive books available. It contains short chapters on song as monologue, gestures and focus, and auditions. Caldarone, Marina, and Lloyd-Williams, Maggie. Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus. Hollywood: Drama Publishers, 2004. Essentially a thesaurus for finding the perfect actable verb for any situation. If you can come up with a verb that is close to what you want but not the perfect verb, look up that word and you’ll see others that may be better. For example, “Abolish” lists Annihilate, Destroy, Dismiss, Eradicate and Nullify. Cohen, Darren, and Perilstein, Michael. The Complete Professional Audition. New York: Back Stage Books, 2005. An incredibly helpful and exhaustive book for musical theatre auditions. It discusses such nuts and bolts as constructing the perfect 16-bar audition. Also helpful for choosing appropriate material for a specific role. Highly recommended. Craig, David. A Performer Prepares: A Guide to Song Preparation for Actors, Singers and Dancers. New York: Applause, 1993. Like Mr. Craig’s magnum opus, On Singing Onstage, this book takes the form of transcribed coaching sessions within various styles such as Narrative show ballad, Theatre blues, Patter song, etc. The best thing about this book for me is the way he is able to categorize songs by type. Recommended primarily for that reason. Craig, David. On Singing Onstage. New York: Applause, 1978. Mr. Craig’s book was the first of its kind and influences nearly everything that comes after it concerning theatrical song interpretation. The core of the book is a detailed process of five steps for preparing a song. We all are indebted to this book. Highly recommended.
Deer, Joe and Dal Vera, Rocco. Acting in Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course. New York, Routledge, 2008. This is an extremely comprehensive textbook for the complete training of the musical theatre performer. It leaves no stone uncovered. Highly recommended. Kayes, Gillyanne, and Fisher, Jeremy. Successful Singing Auditions. New York, Routledge, 2002. The best part of this book for me is something she calls the “FOAL process”– “falling off a log.” It is a series of activities that help you to hone in on great material for you. The remainder of the book gives very solid and practical advice although her perspective is that of a West End professional. Kayes, Gillyanne. Singing and the Actor. New York: Theatre Arts, 2004. This is a vocal technique book for musical theatre singers. It comes highly recommended by voice teachers. Melton, Joan. Singing in Musical Theatre. New York: Allworth Press, 2007. A series of interviews with musical theatre educators from around the world. Merlin, Joanna. Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide. New York: First Vintage Books, 2001. For my money, the best, most helpful, most humane, most sensible book on the subject. Incomparable. Moore, Tracey, and Bergman, Allison. Acting the Song. New York: Allworth Press, 2008. Essentially an handbook for musical theatre educators in teaching song interpretation. Clearly owes a debt to David Craig’s work but is less off-putting. This book may not be particularly helpful to the young professional. Oliver, Donald. How to Audition for the Musical Theatre: A Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Preparation. Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus, 1995. Ostrow, Stuart. Thank You Very Much. Hanover, NH: Smith and Kraus, Inc., 2002. A very slight book with a few lists of good songs to sing. Not particularly helpful in general. Ostwald, David. Acting for Singers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. A big fancy book published by a fancy company. The musical theatre singer may be put off by the fact that at least half of the book is about acting in opera. The technique here, however, is solid.
Robison, Kevin. The Actor Sings. Portsmith, NH: Heinemann, 2000. Singing technique for the actor who has had little experience. Silver, Fred. Auditioning for the Musical Theatre. New York: Penguin Book, 1985. Another early book on the subject. While the book is fine, I think there are better things on the subject. Suskin, Steven. Showtunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway’s Major Composers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. An encyclopedic work about Broadway music. Indispensable. This is where I learned that Meridith Willson didn’t write “My White Knight”! For musical theatre nerds only.