July 17 Master Class with Lissa deGuzman

Lissa deGuzman InstaPost

I am so excited to announce the first of which I hope will be many masterclasses featuring former students of mine who have gone on to thrive as working artists.

Our first artist/clinician is Lissa deGuzman, who can both belt her face off and soar to the heights of soprano-land. When she studied with me in Milwaukee, she performed not only Lily in The Secret Garden at Divine Savior Holy Angels, but Gertrude in Seussical (also DSHA) as well. A true triple-threat, Lissa has also been dance captain for multiple productions. Since completing her BFA in musical theater at Belmont University in Nashville, she has gone on to work steadily in regional theater, national tours, and on Broadway.

This is the bio she just sent me:

Lissa deGuzman just finished the run of a new Broadway bound musical Bliss at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA. Sadly, COVID-19 interrupted her next new musical’s Off-Broadway debut, Between the Lines, but she can’t wait to get back. Other credits include: Broadway: King Kong. National Tour: Aladdin. Regional: West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof and Chasing Rainbows. @lissadeguz

Lissa’s masterclass will begin with a brief talk about her career path, after which she will work with 8 singers on addressing the acting journey and how it informs vocal colors and technique. Each singer will present a song or excerpt of 90 seconds or less. A Q&A will follow. I have room for 5 more performers and up to 42 auditors. You can check here for more information and to register.

Meanwhile, here’s a recording Lissa made while she was still in college, and one I use often to demonstrate to people how to use belt, mix, and head voice interchangeably as tools of expression. Enjoy!

Spectral Audio Visual · Get Out and Stay Out – Lissa DeGuzman

 

Listening Party #2: The People Called it “Ragtime!”

My second favorite musical is Lynn Ahrens’ and Stephen Flaherty’s Ragtime, which premiered on Broadway in 1998. On Friday, May 8 at 3pm, we’ll be listening to the original cast recording, which features some of my favorite singers:

  • Judy Kaye – Emma Goldman
  • Lea Michele – Little Girl
  • Marin Mazzie (RIP) – Mother
  • Brian Stokes Mitchell (or as I like to call him, “Stokes”) – Coalhouse Walker, Jr.
  • Audra Audra AUDRA McDonald – Sarah Brown

This musical is set in the early 1900s and is based on the style of music popular during the era, which was known as ragtime. But it addresses so many issues that still exist today:

  • Immigration
  • Racism
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Socialism
  • Sexism
  • White privilege
  • Tabloid journalism

There are three primary groups within the show:

  1. The affluent white family, known only as Father, Mother, Grandfather, Younger Brother, and Edgar, the son of Father and Mother (why he has a name and no one else does, I don’t know). Others affiliated with this group are historical figures such as J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Harry K. Thaw and his wife Evelyn Nesbit, as well as her former lover Stanford White, and Admiral Robert Peary. Less affluent, but also a face of white privilege is the fictional fire chief Willie Conklin.
  2. The African-American musician Coalhouse Walker, Jr. and his girlfriend, Sarah Brown; Booker T. Washington; Sarah & Coalhouse’s friends.
  3. The Jewish immigrant Tateh and his daughter, Little Girl (note that she doesn’t have a name); as well as the anarchist Emma Goldman. A more famous immigrant is magician Harry Houdini, whose life is somewhat tied to Edgar.

I saw this show on a national tour in Chicago in the early 2000s and fell in love with it. I’d already listened to the original cast recording, where I first fell in love with the amazing voices, especially those of Stokes and Audra.

Join me on Friday to hear more about this wonderful show (message me for the link or use the one from last week if you were there). Meanwhile, enjoy this performance of Audra and Stokes at the Kennedy Center in January 2019, a little over 20 years after their first performance in the Broadway production.

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

I’m in the process of cramming new music into my brain so that I can spit out new music for you to work on in the fall. (Spit out was my edited way of saying that.)

When I was in Milwaukee, I had a lot of students bring me things from new shows – one of my boys (who is now a working actor in Chicago) had a connection in New York via his dad with all the new composers on and off Broadway, so he was constantly bringing new things.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been focused on finding balance between singing and teaching, so I haven’t been exposed to as much that’s new and exciting. So there’s a gap in what I’ve been listening to. Some of that has been filled in by On Broadway on SiriusXM, but even that’s just a song at a time. So – I’m going to spend some time and listen to:

  1. Hadestown
  2. The Prom
  3. Be More Chill
  4. Come From Away (I know a lot of it but I need to listen to the whole thing)
  5. The  Band’s Visit (because I love Tony Shalhoub)

Any suggestions? Feel free to comment!

***

Meanwhile, enjoy New Music – “Haunting me, and somehow taunting me” (the staging in the first is REALLY static, but the singing is lovely, especially the young woman playing Mother) in two completely different ways!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

I’m in the process of cramming new music into my brain so that I can spit out new music for you to work on in the fall. (Spit out was my edited way of saying that.)

When I was in Milwaukee, I had a lot of students bring me things from new shows – one of my boys (who is now a working actor in Chicago) had a connection in New York via his dad with all the new composers on and off Broadway, so he was constantly bringing new things.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been focused on finding balance between singing and teaching, so I haven’t been exposed to as much that’s new and exciting. So there’s a gap in what I’ve been listening to. Some of that has been filled in by On Broadway on SiriusXM, but even that’s just a song at a time. So – I’m going to spend some time and listen to:

  1. Hadestown
  2. The Prom
  3. Be More Chill
  4. Come From Away (I know a lot of it but I need to listen to the whole thing)
  5. The  Band’s Visit (because I love Tony Shalhoub)

Any suggestions? Feel free to comment!

***

Meanwhile, enjoy New Music – “Haunting me, and somehow taunting me” (the staging in the first is REALLY static, but the singing is lovely, especially the young woman playing Mother) in two completely different ways!

She’s the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – with something to say

I am a huge fan of the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the fourth (and final) season of which I’m watching on Netflix right now. The star and creator and producer and writer of the show is the multi-talented (as well as multi-tasking) Rachel Bloom, who plays the title character, Rebecca Bunch.

Each episode of the show features one to two musical numbers (also co-written by Ms. Bloom). They can be about mistakes Rebecca has made in her relationships (which are legion), about the men in her life and their reactions to her, her friends, her family, etc. They vary greatly in style, from

  • big, showy musical theater numbers, complete with Broadway-level choreography; 
  • intimate cabaret-style solo performances
  • dance music videos
I just happened upon this video of an interview Rachel Bloom did with Seth Meyers about a year and a half ago, and in it, he asks her about using songs to tackle some pretty significant issues, particularly regarding mental health. I loved the way that she describes how a song is structured (this comes in nearly 4 minutes in). She refers to them as musical essays, with the thesis statement the chorus, and the supporting paragraphs the verses and bridges.  She says, “It’s a great way to distill something down,  to be like, ‘this is what we’re trying to say.'”

What are you trying to say in your songs? What is the main point? What is in the supporting material? 

Let’s take the song “Someone like you” from Jekyll & Hyde. It’s very clear what the point is: If I had someone like you in my life, it would be better. That’s the chorus. You sing it three times (and the last time, higher).

The supporting material:
The beginning: I’m an outsider. Nothing has ever worked for me. I’ve never had any hope.
The second verse: I’m feeling things I never felt before and I think there might be a way out. I know what that is now.

Watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it already (caveat: adult content). 

Attend the Tale of Lea DeLaria

I had the great fortune of going to see Lea DeLaria at Blues Alley in DC last night.

[quick aside – why on earth are women with beautiful Italian names pronouncing them so Americanized? Lea DeL/ae/ria — Laura Ben/ae/nti? Seriously, folks, people would be able to wrap their mouths around the taller /a/ vowel without any problem; pronounce your names the way they’re intended]

I have seen Lea DeLaria on TV since the 1990s, when she started doing stand-up as the first openly lesbian comic on late night and cable TV programs. And then I saw that she was doing Broadway, doing roles like Hildy in On the Town (with Jesse Tyler Ferguson as her love interest) and Eddie/Dr. Scott in Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

But my fascination with Lea DeLaria came when she played the psychic Madame Delphina on One Life to Live. OLTL was a bizarre soap – it used a lot of New York actors (who were often doing double duty in roles on Broadway) and was much more socially conscious than your average soap. Yes, there were people returning from the dead, evil twins, multiple personalities, etc., but there were also storylines about equal marriage and antiwar sentiments. It was quirky. And then she played a drag role, Professor Del Fina (you see what they did there?). As Delphina, she would hear voices and randomly turn around and converse with them, usually in a somewhat irritated fashion.

Of course, since then I’ve seen her in things like Orange is the New Black, where she plays Boo.

It was an amazing show. She’s raunchy. Very raunchy. But her voice is capable of so much inflection. She can purr, she can growl, she can yell, she can croon.

I thought of Barbara Cook last night, even though vocally they could not be more different. Lea’s carrying on the tradition. She’s still telling the story, she’s true to the text, she’s authentic. There are still people out there who can tell the tales.