Sunday, March 27, 2005

Has Broadway "Lost Its Voice"?

Anyone who knows me will surely mention that I'm no stranger when it comes to musical comedy. That's why this article in the New York Times caught my eye. This should give you the sense of it:
"The style of vocalizing that is rewarded on "American Idol" - by its panel of on-air judges and by the television audience that votes on the winners - is both intensely emotional and oddly impersonal. The accent is on abstract feelings, usually embodied by people of stunning ordinariness, than on particular character. Quivering vibrato, curlicued melisma, notes held past the vanishing point: the favorite technical tricks of "Idol" contestants are often like screams divorced from the pain or ecstasy that inspired them.

"The Broadway musical has always had its share of big-voiced belters, from Ethel Merman to Patti LuPone. But they have usually belonged to the tradition of Broadway as a temple to magnified idiosyncrasies, to performers for whom song is an extension of individuality. Which is why when Simon Cowell, the most notoriously harsh of "American Idol's" judges, describes a contestant as "too Broadway," it is meant as a withering dismissal. Carol Channing, Robert Preston, Jerry Orbach and Gwen Verdon wouldn't stand a chance in the court of Cowell. And if they were starting out today, they probably wouldn't stand a chance in Broadway musicals either."

To be honest, I haven't seen a new musical in years. I suppose the newest musical I've seen has been "The Civil War" which pretty perfectly fits the description of the "New Broadway Voice" in the article and, to be fair, gets a mention. Whether or not change is good, the article is. Give it a read. And support musical theater.
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