Expanding Your Broadway Repertoire : Showtune Savvy Part 3

Angela Lansbury in the original Broadway production of Mame, 1966

H

ello CS Music community!

We did it, we survived 2020! That’s nothing to balk at. Your perseverance and dedication to your craft is to be celebrated, wear it like a war medal! It’s a new year and a new you, so I think it’s time for some new Musical Theatre rep. Many of us feel like 2020 was a “joke” of a year. With any joke, I always find it’s best to be part of the joke rather than the butt, am I right? So prepare to yuck it up as we explore some lesser known “comic” showtunes!!

Before we begin, we need to respect the fact that comedy is not easy. In fact, most professional actors will solidly tell you that comedy is much harder to pull off than the die hard dramatic stuff. It’s very easy to over do it, especially in song. Don’t get me wrong, I am a “more is more” type of guy, but the trick to landing a musical comedy moment is TRUST THE LYRIC! Write that down, friends. Repeat it 3 times before you get to clowning it up, Trunchbull style, on stage or in the audition room.  Comedy must be played honestly to get those audience chortles we so desperately crave. Having a funny song in your arsenal is always a plus, even if you consider yourself  a serious leading lad or lady. Here are a few  pieces to keep you LOL’ing in 2021

SOPRANO – Let’s be honest, Kristin Chenoweth has truly cornered the market on the hilarious soprano front. I love me some Chenoweth! But I encourage my up and coming coloratura’s to fight the urge to present your best Kristin “Chenopression”. It goes without saying that singing “Popular” in a professional audition setting would get you little more than a “Thanks, next” from most casting directors. Let’s also look beyond staples like The Girl in 14G and  Art is Calling For Me, both fabulous but predictable choices. Have a look at this gem:

GOOCH’S SONG from Mame by Jerry Herman (1966): This is a delightful romp of a song that not only shows off incredible range, topping out at B flat 5, but really allows the singer to make bold choices and interpret the song from a specific point of view. In the production, Agnes Gooch, the title character’s mousy secretary, is presented in a delicate state, that is to say, several months pregnant. Gooch is playing it up to the haughty manner driven society set. You can have alot of fun playing with  the innuendo and word play.  This song may not be appropriate for very young singers. But college age and above should find it easy to produce a 16 bar cut focusing on the latter half of the song. Phony baby bumps are encouraged but not required 😉

Listen/watch:

Jane Connell from the original Broadway Cast Album

Meghan Sands

Emily Skinner

Also listen to: “Dirty Old Man” (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum) “I Never Do Anything Twice” (Side by Side by Sondheim), “Gorgeous” (The Apple Tree)

ALTO/BELTER – Finding funny material is a bit easier for our alto and belter ladies. Brassy side kicks, quirky next door neighbors, Drowsy Chaperone’s and The Lady of The Lake (from Spamalot) are always set to get laughs. As you might imagine, I could go on and on about giggle inducing musical masterpieces for altos. Sadly I don’t have the time or space in this article to get to all of them. So I will make just a couple suggestions:

THE SECRET SERVICE from Mr. President by Irving Berlin (1962): Mr. President was Berlin’s final musical. It was short lived and critically lambasted but produced a few great tunes despite being called “old fashioned and out of date”.  In this song the President’s daughter, Leslie,  pines for boys and whines for privacy away from the eyes of the President’s watchmen. Musically, the melody is simple which can be very refreshing in the audition room. You have lots of space to really explore your character and make surprising and silly choices. Don’t worry you can belt the end out, they’ll know you have pipes! This is a great song for any age.

Listen/watch: Original Cast Album with Anita Gillette

Try this instead of : “Shy” (Once Upon a Mattress), “My New Philosophy” (Charlie Brown)

Also listen to: “The Alto’s Lament,” “Off With Their Heads” (Wonderland), “Old Fashioned Love Story” (The Wild Party)

TENOR/BARITONE – OK, gentlemen the comic world is your proverbial oyster. There is no shortage of hilarious characters in the Musical Theatre universe. The goal here is to find the right kind of crazy for you and your brand. There are also scads of fun cabaret and trunk songs that can be the perfect fit for your slap stick sensibilities. Songs about stalkers and cavemen abound and are just a YouTube rabbit hole away. And remember there are great comedic songs in animated films and movie musicals as well. I’m still waiting with bated breath to hear someone dive into the score from the South Park movie 🙂

SOMEBODY KILL ME  from The Wedding Singer by Matt Sklar/ Adam Sandler – Tenor’s need to be able to rock it out in today’s scene. Why not show off your awesome chops while getting laughs? This is a hilarious and SHORT song from both the movie and musical versions of The Wedding Singer. You can raise the key if you really want to show off range and for my guitar players, why not bring your baby into the room with you? Yep, you ca do that for the right project. There is strong language here which you can easily modify if you aren’t comfortable. Remember to play this one straight at the beginning so the insanity really ends in the chorus. Make sure you don’t over push for a growling sound. There are ways to get the grit without straining your chords in an unhealthy way. Make sure the sound is placed further forward for rock music.

THOSE WERE THE GOOD OLD DAYS from Damn Yankees by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (1955) – The devil is in the details in this classic showtune. Applegate, the devil himself, yearns for the historical atrocities he’s loved and laughed to. The secret to this song is to “SHOW ME, DON’T TELL ME.” You want to play each reference as if you were living through them in real time. Have fun and play with your character work. This is crooner gold, so don’t be afraid to add an oldsy times affectation now and then to color the vocal.

Listen/watch: Original Cast Album

Sean Hayes

Jerry Lewis

Also listen to: “Man” (The Full Monty), “My Unfortunate Erection” (Spelling Bee), “C’est Moi” (Camelot)

Remember, comedy happens when you surprise your audience. So why not take a “serious” song you love and present it in a new and kooky way. Be true to your brand and your sense of humor and you can’t go wrong. Be creative, have fun and make ‘em laugh!

LOVE,

Your Broadway Buddy,

Ben Cameron @BenDoesBroadway

Ben Cameron

Ben Cameron is your Broadway Buddy. He has appeared on Broadway in Wicked (original cast), Aida and Footloose (original cast). He has toured in Sweet Charity, Fame, The Who’s Tommy, State Fair and Footloose. Ben is the creator/host of Broadway Sessions (2018 MAC Award), MainStage host of Broadway Con, host of the hit podcast talk show ’The Broadway Cast’ w/ Playbill, BroadwayWorld web series Dance Captain Dance Attack, Broadway Buskers concert series w/ Times Square Alliance and much more. Ben is a frequent face on PBS WNET. He is a sought after writer, director, teacher, host and travels the world teaching high energy theatre and dance masterclasses. Follow Ben on social media @BenDoesBroadway. www.bencameron.nyc