In preparation for the upcoming “Finding the Emotional Truth in Golden Age Theater Songs” masterclass with James Valcq on September 2, I thought it was a good time to revisit this blogpost from two years ago. (New additions in brackets]
I hear this way too often from people:
“Why should I sing golden age music? It’s so old-fashioned! I don’t know any of it.”
- Technique. Today’s musicals tend to be very text-driven, and aren’t necessarily vehicles for mastering things like legato and breath management. (And that doesn’t make them less than, just different.)
- Revivals are big nowadays. Two revivals were nominated this season – Kiss Me, Kate and Oklahoma (see below).
- Sometimes it’s right for the audience where you’ll be performing. A retirement community will appreciate a Rodgers & Hammerstein song more than they will something from Pasek & Paul. Usually.
- [Because of stuff like SCHMIGADOON!!]
- Because choosing repertoire is one of my superpowers. If I’m picking it for you, it’ll be right for you. Trust my judgment.
- History. Most of all, history.
Oklahoma won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. It’s supposed to be fantastic, and I want to see it. And I don’t even like the show. However, the way they’re looking at it is more contemporary – the accompaniment is a band, rather than a full orchestra, the casting is diverse, and the direction takes it to a darker place than most traditional productions. [Note: Since writing this, I went to see the revival and it was everything I said it was – in fact, I don’t want to see the show done any other way.]
In undergrad, I wrote a paper about the characters of Curly in Oklahoma and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro and how groundbreaking both of them were for their times. Frank Rich pretty much wrote the same thing in this article:
“At its birth, the show was to its America what Hamilton has been to ours: both an unexpected record-smashing box-office phenomenon and a reassuring portrait of our past that lifted up theatergoers at a time of great anxiety about the country’s future. Its Broadway opening took place less than 16 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when America was shipping its sons off to war and still digging out of the Great Depression. Like Hamilton, too, Oklahoma! was deemed artistically revolutionary for its time. A self-styled “musical drama” rather than a musical comedy, it dispensed with the usual leggy chorus line and leveraged its songs to advance character and plot.”
There is a vast history of American musical theater, going back before Oklahoma! Knowing about it makes you a more well-rounded singer.
After watching Carousel on Amazon Prime this past weekend (Nathan Gunn, Kelli O’Hara, Jessie Mueller, Stephanie Blythe, Jason Daniely, Shuler Hensley), there is no doubt in my mind that Golden Age musicals have the same relevance that they do now.
- Single moms
- Domestic abuse
- Joblessness/financial struggles
Angst did exist before Rent! There is emotional truth to be found in golden age theater, you just have to find it.
And just how do you find it?
Sign up for James Valcq’s masterclass on September 2, as well as the rest of “Back to …. Whatever!” to learn more about fun vocalises,
pop/rock styling and repertoire,
AND the depths that you didn’t know (but should’ve known)
existed in golden age theater songs.
Registration is still open here.