Two nights ago we went to see the new Broadway production of Cinderella written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for TV in the 50s. The book has been changed and updated, some songs have been added. Still, it has the old values of traditional theater and the singing is lovely. There is no rock influence here and nothing to detract from the beauty of the singing, even when there is clearly a pop flavor to some of the songs of the leads. The costumes are gorgeous, the dancing, which has the women in big ball gowns in several numbers, has variety, (especially for the men, several of whom do vibrant acrobatics in one of the numbers), and the array of characters is a mix of young and old, serious and funny and, to me at least, it is all reflective of the best of The Great White Way.
This evening we went to a preview of “Hands on a Hard Body”, also on Broadway, which is based on the 80s movie and was developed at La Jolla Playhouse in CA. The music is written by Trey Anastasio, of Phish. The characters must keep their hands on a truck to win it, standing continuously until only one person remains and is the winner. The songs are rock and roll based, or country influenced, and there is a mambo rock, a gospel song that brings down the house and several quiet ballads, too. The vocalists do a very good job and the book keeps you interested. The choreography is very creative, given that everyone is always attached to the truck. The truck is moved all around the stage by the actors who push it this way and that, and it becomes a kind of character in the play, too.
Tomorrow evening we will attend a rehearsal of the large work “La Pasion segun San Marcos” (sorry, couldn’t find the accents for Spanish here) by Osvaldo Golijov, of Argentina, at Carnegie Hall. I have seen this work before. It is for large chorus, orchestra, band, and soloists both classical and jazz, also includes choreography and is written in several languages. It is a multi-layered work with many elements that blend together to make a dynamic evening of music and theater.
All of these events involve singing and singers. They are each unique, the singing in them is diversified and not interchangeable. Anyone who went to all of these events who thought that the vocalists were all doing the same things with their throats would have to be very ignorant of vocal function. Yet, the idea that “all singing is the same — it’s just changing resonances” strongly persists in the world of teaching singers. If you took the really skilled singers in “Hard Body” and plunked them down at “Cinderella”, no doubt at least a few of them might be able to sing that music without issue. It’s also possible that a number of the singers in “Cinderella” could, if requested, sing the music in “Hard Body”, but there is no guarantee that this would be the case, as each show requires different vocal mechanics. And, you would not be able to drop any of the Broadway singers into the “Pasion” because the sounds made in this piece are neither rock nor traditional theater vocal production. The classical sounds in “Pasion” share some similarily with those of the fairy godmother in “Cinderella” but that’s about it.
If you don’t live in NYC, it would be hard to encompass three different professional performances in three evenings, but if you live in or near any other big city, and you look around, you will find musicals and concerts of various kinds, even if they are not sequential. You should find a way to get to as many of them as you can. In order to keep in touch with what the music business is doing, you have to be in touch with what’s out there right now. Today.
The Old and the New are both pretty terrific in the hands and throats of those who know what they are doing. It isn’t necessary to choose between them, you can have the best of all possible worlds.