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Acting in Plays, Singing/what to sing for Miss Saigon??

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QUESTION: I have an audition for Kim in Miss Saigon in a few weeks. I'm 22 years old (though I'm very petite and appear young for my age, most people think I'm like 16..... those Asian genes!!) and I'm really at a loss of what to sing.

I am a classical soprano but can also sing in a pop/rock style, and I don't know what it is that the director will be looking to hear. Kim is an ingenue role, but she is also a very strong person and I'm thinking that my selection ought to reflect that somewhat. I was considering "The Stuff" from Reefer Madness or "Nobody's Side" from Chess, but then they'd probably assume that I'm going for Gigi. Would a simple, sincere ballad come off better for her?
Maybe "Loving You" from Passion? But then I'm afraid they won't know whether or not I've got the belting chops........ after all, Kim is never offstage and has to sing for hours on end.

ANSWER: Hi, Kamiko –

Thank you for the question.

Listen to the Original London Cast recording with Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman. That way, you will be able to figure out what the producers are wanting to hear.

Basically, they want to hear the sexual passion that can suddenly exist between two strangers caught in the midst of total chaos and the real possibility of sudden death. In other words, it’s now or never.

All you have to do is push that stuff through the music of Claude-Michel Schönberg and – keeping in mind that the show is 25 years old – an awareness of grand melodrama. Kim’s suicide with a gun is as hugely tragic as is Madame Butterfly’s seppuku in the finale of Puccini’s opera. Both roles demand serious vocal chops.

Learn all of Kim’s music first. If I’m on your audition panel and I think you may be what the Producer wants to risk his money on -- then I’m going to ask you to sing some of Kim’s music.

If you can sing all of her music now -- just like Lea Salonga and without a microphone -- then you will know exactly how to present whatever material you choose for your audition.

Consider “When I Look At You” from The Scarlet Pimpernel. Know the whole song. It’s loaded with opportunity. You can push everything that Kim eventually demonstrates through this piece, especially in the last part, picking up with, “When I look at you, he is touching me.”

If the audition notice says to bring a Rock or Pop Rock ballad, choose your personal favorite and – as with the Broadway song – push Kim's belting chops through it. Simple.

Count on girls being lined-up around the block for this.  

I am a vocal coach to working singers in the San Francisco Bay Area. When you want to make an appointment, contact me at:  BroadwayBelters@yahoo.com.

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Broadwaybelters@yahoo.com

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for answering!!! So I listened to that ballad from The Scarlet Pimpernel, and while it's a good one, I fear that it might not convey enough vocal range. Kim has to pull a belt up to E at the climax of "The Movie in My Mind", and the song you mentioned mostly goes into head voice in the higher parts. Could someone playing Kim, theoretically, get away with doing a couple of those money notes in head voice?

I'm having a hard time finding a high belt song that could also convey the kind of innocence, openness and sincerity that characterizes Kim's demeanor. The only music in my repertoire that involves full-belted high notes is "Acid Queen", "It's a Privilege to Pee", "Since I've Been Loving You" by Led Zeppelin.......... and none of those exactly remind me of Miss Saigon.

Answer
Hi, Kamiko --

The problem you are having is that the role of “Kim” in Miss Saigon is not written for a petite Classical Soprano who can also sing -- as you state -- in a pop/rock style. In every professional audition notice, the role of Kim is specifically described as a Mezzo Soprano (or Belter) who can belt to E5. Some listings even say "no Classical singers". There is no way that you or any other soprano will ever “get away with” doing a couple of Kim’s money notes in her “head voice”. The producer and conductor will not allow that to happen. Moreover, the audience knows the show and the role and what to expect from her. There may even be a number of women out there who have sung the role of Kim. The local critics would be the first to notice if the dynamics were changed and would critique the production without mercy.

The song I suggested, “When I look at you” -- specifically, in the last section that sails up to E5, can be totally belted and, as I stated earlier, delivered with Kim’s agenda. Don’t judge the possibilities of any song by a cast recording. Any Broadway song can be taken out of context from the original show and sung in a cabaret without anyone knowing where it came from or who sang it in whatever manner.

Also consider that Kim sings down to G3. Sopranos don’t sing to Low G and obviously don’t have the texture in their own lower register that Mezzo Sopranos do.

My best advice is to not risk damaging your Soprano voice chasing a show that your judges already know is not right for you. And don’t waste your time in the ensemble.

I understand your attraction and eagerness to tackle this complex and very dramatic role. They don’t come along very often for Broadway-type sopranos. But there’s a ton of such repertoire for Classical sopranos -- including an enormous range of art songs and concert repertoire. Get familiar with it!

Most sincerely,
Sean Martinfield

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Sean Martinfield

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I am a professional vocal coach in San Francisco. I have published over 3300 responses related to vocal training - particularly as it relates to Musical Theatre, Pop/Standard, and Opera. I have 30 years of experience as a personal trainer to working singers and actors in the San Francisco Bay Area. I sang professionally for 20 years and know what it means to live the life of a musician. I can determine your voice category, i.e., Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Alto, Alto Belter, etc., and how to broaden and strengthen your range. Need an audition song for a Broadway Musical? I can assist you with your song selections and help you build an audition portfolio that demonstrates your vocal category and meets the requirements specified in the audition notice. I have created a vocal methodology, "The Belter`s Method". It will enable those in Cabaret and Musical Theatre to practice more efficiently because it focuses on the vocal demands of professional performers and will keep you performance-ready. If what you want is a better voice and more control over your career moves and choices, contact me at: BroadwayBelters@yahoo.com I am also a music and cultural critic for HuffingtonPost.com and Examiner.com. I interview internationally recognized musicians, singers, dancers, and recording artists -- particularly those who are now appearing or scheduled to perform in San Francisco.

Experience

As a vocal coach, I work primarily with singers and actors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. My students range from absolute beginners to working professionals, from kids to senior citizens. The vast majority of my clients come to me through recommendation. I know how to identify any singer's vocal category, i.e., soprano, tenor, alto, baritone, etc. I know how to muscle-up every singer's vocal range and to expand it beyond conventional definitions. I have developed a vocal methodology for those who want to know how to belt, THE BELTER'S METHOD. There are a number of major components to my work as a vocal coach. The first is to identify the client's vocal category and to strengthen and maximize the vocal range accordingly. Then it's about teaching a reliable vocal workout that will enable the client to gain better control of their musicianship. That includes scale work to expand the vocal range and to improve placement, breath control, and diction. Then we work on material for the audition portfolio, the immediate job or assignment, a recording session, etc. My task to is to better equip singers and actors who are hoping to or relying upon their performance skills and vocal endurance to maintain a career in the Performing Arts. My clients regularly appear in cabarets and musical productions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Some have worked in New York and gone on National Tours. For more information, Contact me at: Broadwaybelters@yahoo.com

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San Francisco State University – BA in Theatre Arts; graduate work in Theatre, Philosophy, and Comparative Reiligion. Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley – Graduate work in Ethics

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