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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Fave Five Broadway Sopranos


Kelli O'Hara
This southern gal is a product of the same teacher, Florence Birdwell of Oklahoma City University, that produced Kristin Chenoweth. She is best known for her Tony nominated roles: Clara in The Light In The Pizza, Babe in The Pajama Game, and Nellie in South Pacific. Her earlier Broadway work shows off her light, sweet, airy sound, but her later work and her solo album, Wonder in the World, demonstrate that there is more to this girl than blonde hair and high notes. There is genuine soul behind that glorious voice. Because her voice and her look are so classical, she seems more inclined to revivals and I think that if My Fair Lady is ever revived on Broadway, the role of Eliza Doolittle just may be her ticket to finally winning that TONY. Listen to the title track of The Light in the Piazza for a taste of Kelli's impeccable control and sweeping vibrato. 



Audra McDonald
Television fans will know her as Dr. Naomi Bennet on ABC's Private Pactice, but theatre fans know she is a Broadway Baby at heart. She is a classically trained soprano from Julliard. Many know her as a belter, which is not untrue, but her power in her lower register actually comes from her soprano training.She performed an unthinkable feat, winning 3 TONY awards in 5 years as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel(1994), Sharon in Master Class (1996), and Sarah in Ragtime (1998). She won a 4th TONY in 2004, portraying the role of Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. She shares the title of "4-time TONY winner" with legends like Gwen Verdon and Mary Martin. She continues to perform concerts worldwide, specializing in opera and classical song cycles. My personal favorite Audra recording is "Your Daddy's Son" from Ragtime.





Julie Andrews

Perhaps the most well known of these 5 sopranos, Julie Andrews captured the hearts of audiences world-wide on film as Mary in Mary Poppins and Maria in The Sound of Music. Her stage highlights include My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Victor/Victoria. Vocally, she is known for her crisp diction and perfect pitch. Unfortunately, in recent years, she has been limited to non-singing roles due to a botched throat surgery that rendered her singing voice unusable. But she has continued to perform in films and her speaking voice is just as fluid and mesmerizing as when she had the use of vibrato. And we will always remember her as the silvery-voiced soprano we fell in love with. The title track from The Sound of Music is a classic Julie Andrews piece that is not to be missed.




Kristin Chenoweth
Anybody who has ever met me knows that Kristin Chenoweth is my idol. I've loved her ever since I began to study voice and found that I too was a soprano. I thought that only belters could have Broadway careers until I began following Kristin's career and then I decided I wanted to be just like her. Her Broadway highlights are certainly her performances as Glinda in Wicked and her TONY winning turn as Sally in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown where she showed off her upper register and her belting capabilities that, like in Audra's case, stem from her classical training. As Cunegonde in Candide, she showed off her coloratura range in what every soprano considers the most demanding song written for the musical theatre, Glitter & Be Gay. She is currently showing a darker side to her performance in the revival of Promises, Promises and though it is great to hear her sing the classic Burt Bacharach tunes, I miss hearing those great high C's, otherwise known as the "cheno note". "The Girl in 14G," written specifically for Kristin by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan is a shining example of her abilities to shift from operatic arias to jazz riffs and belting all in one song.

Barbara Cook
And last but not least, the woman who has inspired every soprano in the musical theatre, the Queen herself, Barbara Cook. Her earliest roles were in the ingenue category, from her TONY winning portrayal of Marian in The Music Man to originating the role of Cunegonde in Bernstein's operetta Candide. After a hiatus from Broadway, Cook embarked upon a very successful cabaret and concert career. She has also become known as one of the greatest living interpreters of Stephen Sondheim's work and made a triumphant return to the Broadway stage this season in the musical Sondheim on Sondheim where she delivered sensational versions of In Buddy's Eyes, Not A Day Goes By, and Send In The Clowns. Although her voice has dropped a bit over the years and she no longer has her high E-flats, she will always be the singer that all other sopranos try to live up to. There is no song in the musical theatre that is more spectacular than Barbara Cook singing "Glitter & be Gay".

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