Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Broadway Song: A Singer's Guide

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Broadway Song: A Singer's Guide

Article excerpt

Clark, Mark Ross. The Broadway Song: A Singer's Guide. New York; Oxford University Press, 2015. Paper, xii, 324 pp., $29.95. ISBN 978-0-19-935168-8 www.oup.com

While the title of this volume may lead one to believe that it is a catalogue of songs, it is instead a guide for singers in the development of a personal approach to practice and performance. Mark Ross Clark uses select songs to illustrate how to develop interpretive skills. The author urges singing actors to "flex the muscles of the imagination," because it is essential to creating characters and delivering believable performances.

Clark carefully chose 96 songs that encompass representative examples of voice classifications and types. The listing is divided into four parts: Soprano/High Mezzo; Mezzo-Alto; Tenor/High Baritone; and Baritone. The source musicals range from those of the Golden Age of Broadway, such as Oklahoma! and Guys and Dolls, to contemporary works, such as The Wild Party and Next to Normal. The songs are drawn from shows that span 78 years, from Anything Goes, which opened in 1934, to Newsies, which premiered in 2012.

Clark designed a template that is employed for each song. In addition to the title of the song and the musical from which it is excerpted, it contains the name of the character, duration, range, tessitura, original production team, the year of the Broadway opening, and the literary source for the show. Under the category "voice classification," Clark specifies the type of singing demanded by the song (such as soprano lyric or belt), as well as the type and/or tempo of song (such as up-tempo, character song, or ballad). The author also includes a brief sketch of the character, the plot of the show, and how the particular song fits into the context of the show. One category describes the musical aspects, while another addresses vocal challenges and pitfalls in the song. Finally, the author closes each entry with an interview with someone connected with the show, such as the composer, lyricist, singer, or conductor.

All of the information offered is useful to singers honing their music theater skills. Some of the data, such as the range, tessitura, and plot outline, are readily available from other sources. Much of the material, however, is unique to this volume. For instance, the importance of musical aspects (such rhythm, melody, form, orchestra, and tempo indication) in character development is not always emphasized. …

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