It has been announced that one of the latest pop divas is going to be doing Cinderella on Broadway. Carly Rae Jepson will take over from Laura Osnes in the leading role on Broadway. She isn’t a “legit” singer, even though the part was written for one who was. This is the direction of the future. No point in lamenting what used to be.
For the many thousands of young people who graduate every year with a degree in voice from a university offering training in “classical” vocal music, there is less and less work. Having a degree in applied voice prepares you for — who knows? There are so many ifs. If at university you have been well trained, if you have a great voice, if you can act, if you have done music theater rep the way music theater rep is currently being performed, if you have confidence, if you have a “look”, if you can get seen and heard, if you can “move well” or dance, and if you are lucky enough to get cast in anything at all, you could get started in New York as a performer, but, of course, you could come here and face the thousands of others who want the same jobs you do and get nowhere in a hurry. There are very very few classical jobs and with the demise of NY City Opera, there is almost no way to stay alive here in New York being only a classical vocalist unless you are very unusual or have family money on which to live.
Yes, people get work every day on and Off Broadway, Off/Off Broadway, on tours, in regional theater and in other venues like private parties, and many of these jobs pay. A few pay very well. There are also “showcases” that don’t pay and people find ways to produce themselves in shows of various kinds every day. Some succeed. There are far fewer openings for opera companies, orchestral gigs (usually through AGMA) and for paying church and synagogue jobs. Not too many opera singers are free-lancing at corporate parties.
If the educational system that produces singers is geared to “classical” training, and the job market is geared to various kinds of commercial styles, it only makes it harder for a new vocalist, arriving in NYC looking to be a paid professional singer to get launched. The first kind of job they typically land is restaurant work.
Arriving in NYC without the ability to “cross over” makes it nearly impossible to succeed as a singer unless you are an emerging Pavarotti or Fleming. Most newbees last two, possibly three, years and then give up and go home or go back to school to learn new skills in a different profession. Some become directors — others try play writing.
No one, however, comes here with good solid pop chops and finds that the only way to get work is to have “classical” training and sound more “legit”. The legit sound is going away as fast as an ice cream cone melting on an August day in Times Square. While some shows or casting directors do want a “legit” sound, if you take a look at the emerging trend (Carly Rae Jepson coming in as Cinderella, Carrie Underwood as Maria in TSOM), you will see that the old is really old and that the new is here to stay. Maybe that’s fine, maybe not. That isn’t the point. You have to see the writing on the wall and get used to the new. It’s not going to turn around and be “like it was”.