Acting in Plays, Singing/Audition Songs? Overused/Vocal Range Questions.
Hello Mr. Sean Martinfield,
I'm a stage manager who loves singing/humming songs from shows I'm working on. I really enjoy acting, but have never really been given the chance because the world is always at a shortage of stage managers but there is never a shortage of actresses. I really want to put myself out there and just see how it goes, but am very scared to do so because I have worked with a lot of the music directors in our area as a stage manager and no one has any clue that I am even remotely interested in acting and singing.
Do you have any advice about how to do this? I only really want to do it if I can knock their socks off, which I believe I could do if I found the right song. "Reflection" from Mulan "Dying Ain't So Bad" from Bonnie and Clyde and "I'm Not That Girl" from Wicked really fit my vocal range well and I am very comfortable singing them. Unfortunately, though, all these choices concern me for a few reasons.
"Reflection" is very overused in my area right now everyone hates the song. It's pretty, and all the accompanists can play it with their eyes closed, but we're all so over it!
"Dying Ain't So Bad" is by far my favorite choice. I love the song and can really sing it well, but I know from experience coming in with an emotional piece like that can scare the panel....so.... :(
"I'm Not That Girl," the note on this is if you want to succeed in theatre don't sing songs from Wicked. Just don't do it.
My guess is that my vocal range is Mezzo-Soprano because I can't go super high (A C6 is possible if it's done carefully and on the ooh vowel.) My favorite falsetto range is G4 to E5 but the weird thing is my chest voice can go like ridiculously low for a girl. (C3-C2 depending on the warm up.) I can transition from my head voice to my chest voice well, but hitting in the middle (D4, E4 and F4) is difficult and requires practice. What does this mean my range is? Would it be different depending on if I wanted to sing in my falsetto or if I wanted to sing lower?
I don't know though, as a third party, what are your opinions on this? I am a senior in high school and am applying for colleges. Unfortunately if I did want to take some steps as an actress it would have to be in college. I just want to do it while I'm still young, but my true passion right now is stage management/technical theatre. Which is far more predictable than the life of an actor. This is another element in my choice of not really wanting to try. (Performers are so competitive and their is so much heartbreak involved in their craft, as one accident could ruin their lives.) Just want to try it though, but is college to late?
Thanks for all your time and consideration on this matter.
Conflicted/Confused Stage Manager
Hi, Sarah --
Thank you for your question. I appreciate all the surrounding information.
I got my BA as an acting major in the Theatre Arts department. I wound up singing professionally for twenty years. I’ve been a private vocal coach longer than that.
While I was at the university, I took one class in lighting and sound and managed to avoid being a stage manager. All the technical stuff about Theatre is just lost on me. But I didn’t know I wanted to be a singer until my second semester as a freshman.
I was getting hoarse during play rehearsals. A friend suggested a singing coach. Six months later I was in a tuxedo, standing by a grand piano, and singing an aria from “Faust”. From that point on I never wanted to do anything else but sing.
If you were to come for a vocal session, the first thing I would do would be to determine your vocal category. I have to hear you, in person, to make such an important determination. I have worked with many women who sing to Low C, but not all of them are true contraltos (aka, low mezzo-sopranos). Where you feel the transitions in your voice is very common with mezzo-sopranos. But it’s those fine lines of difference that determine what your true vocal category (or vocal “fach”) is and, thus, the roles that will be available to you and those that won’t. Broadway-type altos and mezzos are generally wrapped around the block for that one choice role that’s available right now. Obviously, only a few of them will be called back.
You are totally correct in saying there is no shortage of performers. The vast majority of talented individuals will never make their rent as performers, let alone sustain a career. That’s just the way it is.
You must deal with this question of feeling that you could make it as a singer. What and where will you be singing during those seasons when there is no stage work for you? Are you a dancer? If you are dreaming about musical theatre, then you must become a totally proficient dancer.
Get your Degree. Choose the college that allows its performing arts majors -- specifically those with a concentration in technical theatre and stage management -- to take acting or singing classes as electives. Consider Music as a minor.
The song does not exist that will knock anybody’s socks off or guarantee you a job. Your audition material must be in relationship to the show at hand and to the character you are qualified to play. Also consider that most conductors and music directors can tell the difference between a trained singer and someone who knows how to deliver one song all the way through. And yes, please trash the selections you mention.
Consider investing in the following anthologies. The selections are published in the same keys as the original scores.
Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology - Volume 1 Revised - Mezzo-Soprano/Belter
Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology - Volume 2 Revised - Mezzo-Soprano/Belter
Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology - Volume 3 - Mezzo-Soprano/Belter
Singer's Musical Theatre Anthology - Volume 4 - Mezzo-Soprano/Belter
Singer’s Musical Theatre Anthology – Volume 5 – Mezzo Soprano
If you want to be a singer, then your passion must be about the training and maintenance and competitions involved. Your age does not matter. You must be able to read music and be totally acquainted with the repertoire that suits your physical Image, vocal category and range. My job is to train your voice accordingly and to equip you with the skills to sustain a prolonged rehearsal period and 8-shows-a-week for however long the production may last. That does not happen overnight.
If I’d had the ambitions of a great stage manager, then I would have aimed for a world class job such as working at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. It’s all big budget State-of-the Art everything -- and featuring the greatest artists in the world.
I am a vocal coach to working singers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I'm also a music critic for HuffingtonPost.com – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sean-martinfield
and Examiner.com – http://www.examiner.com/user/4557381/articles
. When you want to make an appointment, contact me at: BroadwayBelters@yahoo.com
Below are links to my recent articles and interviews:
Joshua Gersen conducts the San Francisco Symphony in screenings of Hitchcock Classics, 10/30--11/2
Organist Todd Wilson plays ‘The Lodger’ (1927) at Davies Symphony Hall, Halloween Night
GREG FEDDERLY – A Comprimario Tenor Extraordinaire
Olivier Latry – Organist at Notre Dame de Paris, at Davies Hall, 10/12
A Conversation with Soprano Alexandra Silber – This week at Feinstein’s, 10/11-12
SF Jazz Center Goes Baroque - A Conversation with Countertenor David Daniels
Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne—A Daring World Premiere at San Francisco Opera
San Francisco Opera Opens 2013 Season with Boito’s “Mephistopheles”
Audra McDonald joins San Francisco Symphony in Opening Night Gala
Introducing Cheyenne Jackson and Alexandra Silber as San Francisco Symphony’s Tony & Maria in “West Side Story”
THE GERSHWINS AND ME – A Conversation with Michael Feinstein
A Conversation with Ted Neeley, Hollywood’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’