Hello, my bloggerly comrades! (Not to assume that all of you are Russian socialists, but you never know.)
As you may have gathered, I have a slight obsession with musicals.
I was practically born singing. Music is part of my being and I cannot get away from it. I take great pleasure in viewing musical productions, but I take perhaps greater pleasure in performing in them myself.
Of course, this is not always possible and I often resort to belting showtunes at the top of my lungs whilst acting out scenes alone in the living room.
As you may imagine, troubles arise quickly.
This post will be a collection of five types of songs that may prove problematic in such cases. (In other words, the problems one may face when one tries to be Ramin Karimloo and realizes that one is not in fact Ramin Karimloo.)
The Song With No Place To Breathe
This song was written by someone who doesn’t realize that humans need air to make sound (also to survive but that’s a minor detail) and thus one is expected to sing for three minutes straight without breathing.
This does not usually go well.
Examples: “Watch What Happens” from Newsies, “Try Me” from She Loves Me, “My Shot” from Hamilton, “Poison in my Pocket” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, “Giants in the Sky” from Into the Woods (and a plethora of other Sondheim songs)
The Song That Is Technically A Huge Chorus Number
There is always that moment when you are standing on the barricade shouting orders to your army of revolutionaries and then you realize that you are all alone and no one is singing with you.
Chorus numbers are glorious. But as one person it can be hard to sound like a hundred people. You can scream as loud as you want to, but you can’t recreate the intoxicating swell of many voices building into a wondrous crescendo.
Examples: “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Misérables, “Once and for All” from Newsies, “Masquerade” from The Phantom of the Opera, “Rumor in St. Petersburg” from Anastasia, “Finale: I Can’t Recall” from A Tale of Two Cities, “The Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast, “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof
The Song That Is Out Of Your Range
When I say “range” I refer to your vocal range, not your stove-top or a large field full of cows that you happen to own.
This is perhaps one of the most tragic problems of all. When you are singing a heart-wrenching ballad and you get to that one note…
When a song is too low, you can growl out the notes in a practically inaudible drone whilst straining to exude some kind of emotion, or you can randomly jump up the octave.
When a song is too high, you can either squeak out the note in a sort of chicken-like squawk, or you can suddenly drop down the octave. Unfortunately, both options often kill the emotional build-up.
All of these things make it very difficult to actually portray the emotions you are feeling, especially when the song goes out of your range at the CLIMAX of the song.
“I NEVER LET THEM SEE THE wOorSt* OF ME.”
*synonymous with the sound of a dying alpaca.
The fact that my voice fails me thus is hard to swallow sometimes.
Examples: “Words Fail” from Dear Evan Hansen, “Proud of Your Boy” from Aladdin, “Santa Fe” from Newsies, “What Have I Done?” from Les Misérables, “On Your Way Home” from James and the Giant Peach, “Where in the World?” from Secret Garden, “Dancing Through Life” from Wicked, “Foolish To Think” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, “As Good as You” from Jane Eyre (This list is so long that it makes me want to weep.)
The Song That Is A Duet, Trio, Quartet, etc.
This song is akin to the massive chorus number in the sense that you need more than one set of vocal chords to pull it off. Unfortunately, not many of us have those.
This song often starts out pretty well. The characters tend to take turns singing and even though you may feel like you have a touch of split-personality disorder, you mostly feel like you can succeed in pulling this thing off.
But after a while the different parts start to overlap. You realize that you are physically incapable of singing five different counterpoints at once. This is not going to end well.
This may also cause breathing problems.
Quartets are often super dramatic and they are the DEATH OF ME because I CANNOT SING THEM.
Examples: “The Book Report” from You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, “Quartet” from The Secret Garden, “Quartet at the Ballet” from Anastasia, “Your Fault” from Into the Woods, “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof, “If Only (Quartet)” from The Little Mermaid, “I’ve Decided to Marry You” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, “Who I’d Be” from Shrek: The Musical, “Prima Donna” from The Phantom of the Opera, “Blackout” from In the Heights
The Song That You Can’t Sing In Public
…Unless you want people to think you are a psychopath.
This song usually makes the most sense in context. It is also usually sung by the villain.
It is also usually really fun to sing.
But if you take it out of context and start belting it in the streets, things can become problematic.
If you start saying certain things in public people may start to view you with concern.
“WHAT AN AWFUL WASTE TO DO IN SOMEONE I DON’T WANT TO KILL.”
“BE MINE OR YOU WILL BURN.”
“THANK GOD FOR EXECUTION.”
“I’LL COME TO HER BY NIGHT. I’LL TAKE HER BY THE THROAT.”
See what I mean?
Examples: “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “Sirens” from Jane Eyre, “Madame Guillotine” from The Scarlet Pimpernel, “The Trial” from A Tale of Two Cites, “The Dream” from Fiddler on the Roof, “Poison in my Pocket (Reprise)” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
There are many more songs that I could add to these lists, and many more types of problems. Some of these songs actually fit into more than one of the categories.
The sad truth is, I can’t single-handedly recreate an entire Broadway cast recording.
That being said, that fact isn’t going to stop me from trying it on daily basis.
What are some problems that you face when you attempt to sing your favorite Broadway ballads? Do you relate to the ones I mentioned? Do you ever accidentally start singing an awkward song out in public? What are your favorite Broadway showtunes to sing? Do you ever improvise choreography (of course you do)? Who is a Broadway star that you admire? I would love to commiserate with you on the troubles of trying to sing songs that we can’t sing!