Hello, CS Music friends! It’s your Broadway Buddy, Ben Cameron, here again with Showtune Savvy. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwaanza, other or not at all, I’d like to suggest that we celebrate the fact that you have survived this far into 2020! It’s been an incredibly challenging year to be a singer, but you made it. Whether on Zoom (see previous article), or just in the shower, you have kept your love of theatre ad music alive against tremendous odds. So why not stuff your own stocking with some new rep for upcoming concerts, auditions and productions?
In today’s industry, it’s vital to make an impression that engages your audience behind the table, online or in person (a boy can dream, can’t he?). One way to keep the people “leaning in”, is to put your stamp on a musical selection that we haven’t heard a zillion times. In that spirit I’d like to chat briefly about a few songs and shows you may not be quite as familiar with. I’ve selected a gem of a BALLAD for Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone. Gifts for everybody!
SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE from The Most Happy Fella by Frank Loesser (1956).
This soaring soprano “I Want” ballad comes in Act 1 of this 3 Act musical that really toes the line between Opera and Musical Theatre. The score is decidedly classical in style and vocals with a plot that could challenge any operatic nail bitter. Romance, mistaken identity, jealousy, revenge, infidelity and a happy ending (less operatic, I suppose) are all on the menu in TMHF. Leading lady, Rosabella, dreams of a love from far away that could and should be perfect. Coming in at a concise 2:27 and topping out at a glorious Eb5, this is a wonderful piece for concert AND auditions. A 16 or 32 bar audition cut should be easy to craft. Begin at the 2nd verse “Want to be wanted” and bring it on home. If you have deeper time constraints, you can always option up at the end.
Try this instead of: “My White Knight” (The Music Man), “Think Of Me” (Phantom), “Vanilla Ice Cream” (She Loves Me), “How Could I Ever Know” (The Secret Garden), “The Glamorous Life” (A Little Night Music), “Simple Joys of Maidenhood” (Camelot)
Listen/watch: Kelli O’Hara, Kate Baldwin, Erika Henningsen
ANYONE CAN WHISTLE from Anyone Can Whistle by Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents (1964)
Few songs are as hauntingly beautiful as this Sondheim masterpiece. It sits in a score of several other fantastic stand along songs including “There Won’t Be Trumpets” (watch Bernadette Peters tear this one apart), “There’s A Parade in Town” and “Everybody Says Don’t,” which, sidenote, has become a concert favorite for everyone from Barbra Streisand to Liz Callaway, and yet is performed by a male character in the original production. It is regarded as one of Sondheim’s bravest musicals taking on some heavy themes infused with plenty of levity. Sadly the original Broadway run was cut short after 12 performances. https://www.mtishows.com/anyone-can-whistle . Tangent over. ACW is an actor’s piece. Lyrically poetic and melodically accessible, it manages to pack an emotional wallop when approached thoughtfully. Fay Apple’s exploration of what a person is capable of, mirrors the overall themes of sanity vs. insanity within the show. Make sure you follow the 3 steps and know WHO you are talking to, WHAT you want, and HOW you plan to get it. It may not be about “whistling” at all…spoiler. It’s a fantastic concert piece and can be fashioned into an audition piece easily enough. Given that it has a less complex structure than much of Sondheim’s material, an audition cut of 16-32 bars isn’t difficult to arrange with your music director. Vocally you can go as big as you like, remembering that you can always transpose the key to find your sweet spot.
Try this instead of: “She Used to Be Mine” (Waitress), “On My Own” (Les Mis), “In My Dreams” (Anastasia), “Requiem” (Dear Evan Hansen)
Listen/watch: Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Lea Salonga, Joshua Stephen Kartes (Broadway Sessions’ own Musical Director)
NEVER WILL I MARRY from Greenwillow by Frank Loesser and Lesser Samuels (1960)
Greenwillow is a fantasy musical about the town of, you guessed it, Greenwillow! In this world, men wander the earth alone as women stay in the village to rear children and exist in seemingly normal society. That is until Gideon Briggs wishes to change things up and return to his true love. https://www.mtishows.com/greenwillow This one is a lovely ballad that really shows off your range. It has a terrific arc, meaning there is a great beginning, middle, climax and resolve lyrically and musically. Just what you want to present in the audition room!!! Famously Anthony Perkins, was excused from eh set of the film Psycho to rehearse the show. There is ALOT to dig into here, so make sure you tap into more than just the thrilling vocal intervals at the climax. You’ll want to perform the 2nd half of the song in an audition setting, all the fireworks are there for you. NWIM has become a concert favorite of the big divas, make sure you check out the following recordings. This is a piece casting directors and audiences will always find refreshing.
Try this instead of: “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (Les Mis), “For Forever” (Dear Evan Hansen), “Lost In The Wilderness” (Children Of Eden)
Listen/watch: Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Audra McDonald, Anthony Perkins
THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE from I Had A Ball by Jack Lawrence and Stan Freeman (1964)
Alright, this may be the deepest cut on our list. I’m betting dollars to donuts that the vast majority of you have never heard of this song or even the musical it’s from. Well, isn’t that what we’re here for. The Baritone with his signature tune, that no-one else does, gets the worm. Something like that. https://www.playbill.com/production/i-had-a-ball-martin-beck-theatre-vault-0000008247 This is a driving and powerful 11 o’clock anthem. The beauty here really lies in the interpretation of the song. Musically, you can present a driving uptempo charge or sit more deeply into the drama tempo wise. There is plenty of drama to go around here. This is a great show piece for a great big baritone voice! You know, the kind not enough composers are writing for these days, but were all the rage in Broadway’s Golden Age. Play with the interpretation of this song. Lyrically, ir is fairly broad strokes which allows the actor to infuse a very specific narrative and really show them who YOU are. You cannot go too BIG on the ending here. This is a fun one to sing.
Try this instead of: “Til I Hear You Sing” (Love Never Dies), “What is it About Her” (The Wild Party), “Proud Lady” (The Bakers Wife), “Rain” (Once on This Island)
Listen/watch: Richard Kiley, Jerry Keller (that’s about all I could find, let me know if you find other recordings!!!)
As always keep searching off the beaten path for your material. You will be very glad you did. This time we really looked deep into some classic Broadway rep. Audiences and artistic teams will be impressed with your attention to the music from Broadway’s Golden Era!!! Have a happy and safe holiday season and keep training and singing!
Your Broadway Buddy,
Ben Cameron @BenDoesBroadway