hey baritones/basses

Time was when the baritone/bass was the king of Broadway. Leading men like John Raitt, Alfred Drake, and Robert Goulet turned audiences to butter with their dulcet, mellow tones. Since that Golden Age, the baritone/bass has been in decline... and so has Broadway. Coincidence? I think not. Nowadays it seems all the male roles are written for tenors -- so much so that we've had to invent a new voice type: the "bari-tenor"... which means "a baritone who's trying like hell to hit those high notes." Can you blame these baritenors though? Where are the contemporary musical theater songs for the low-voiced man? Answer: you'll find 12 of them here in AUDITION CUTS FOR BARITONES/BASSES

"The Duel" is from an adaptation of Twelfth Night called ILLYRIA. This cut, which is very "operetta" in style, is for Sir Andrew Aguecheek. If you know the Shakespeare play, this is the scene where Toby and Maria have convinced him to challenge his rival suitor to a duel, and he comes back having written this. It is a musically challening cut, but it showcases comic acting ability above all.

"Happy News" is taken from a show called THE ALCHEMISTS, which is an original story set in a Jane Austen-ish 19th century England. The character, Nicholas, has just learned that his brother is engaged to the young lady for whom he has pined unrequitedly for years. And Nicholas, being something of a drama queen, relishes the opportunity to bemoan his circumstances. The cut requires a good bit of verbal and musical dexterity on the singer's part, as well as the acting chops to put across the sarcasm.

"Let's Don't" is a duet from THE PURSUIT OF PERSEPHONE. Edmund and Marie have been set up on a date, and both are less than thrilled about it. Neither believes in romance, and each is given a verse to explain in no uncertain terms that there will be no such foolishness between them on this date. Naturally, in the course of the song, they realize that they are kindred spirits, and that they have... gulp... chemistry. Musically, the song is a period pastiche and has an old-fashioned sound.

"The Love Letter" is another cut from ILLYRIA, but for a different character. This time it's Malvolio, the vain, deluded servant of Countess Olivia, who believes that his mistress is in love with him. In this cut, he has found a love letter which he believes Olivia wrote -- though in fact it is a practical joke on him. The cut offers two contrasting sections, the first sharp, staccato and humorous, the second sustained and soaring. The melody touches on a high G, but mostly sits around a D.

"Menage" from THE TAXI CABARET is a wistful homage to every man's fondest fantasy, the menage a trois. In the last analysis, it's a comic cut -- but leaving aside the subject matter, the melody is actually rather lilting, lyrical and lovely. So it's an opportunity to show off the voice within a comic context.

"Paradise For Now" is taken from THE PURSUIT OF PERSEPHONE, a show about F. Scott Fitzgerald during his college years. This cut is a bit of period pastiche, with a very nostalgic old-timey sound. They don't write 'em like this anymore... Looking over the different selections here, I'd say this is the purest instance of a ballad in the bunch. In the show, it is sung by the older Scott Fitzgerald, looking back on his younger self on the night of Princeton's prom.

"Pass It On" is from THE FLOOD, a musical about the 1993 Mississippi River floods. This cut is of that dark, brooding flavor that is a specialty of baritones and basses. The singer here believes that man has made the river more dangerous by trying to control it with levees and floodwalls. The righteous rage he feels comes from the fact that towns that can afford stronger defenses against the river pass along the dangerous flood tide to the poorer, defenseless towns down the river.

"A Place Apart" from THE PURSUIT OF PERSEPHONE is sung by a friend of F. Scott Fitzerald's. Scott is caught up in the social striving of college life, trying to run with popular set and get into the write club. His friend believes that Scott is wasting his promise as a writer and that he needs to escape from campus, escape from all this social swirl and find a quiet, introspective place within himself. Musically, the song is a gentle ballad, requiring sustained, lyrical singing.

"Poseidon Myself" is one last cut from THE PURSUIT OF PERSEPHONE. The song is actually from a show within the show, a collegiate revue in which the singer, Edmund, plays Poseidon. Part of the humor of the song arises out of Edmund's attitude about playing this particular role: less than thrilled. His deadpan delivery contrasts nicely with the jaunty, goofiness of the tune. Not that the cut has to be performed with that extra subtext... but it works nicely that way!

"Threat Level Green" from LONELY RHYMES is a faux-folk song about the War On Terror. Musically, the cut has a kind of 1960s, "Blowing-in-the-Wing" feel. And though the song is obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, it benefits from a very earnest performance style. Unlike most of the cuts included here, which are biased in favor of that old-timey Golden Age baritone sound, this one is a little bit more contemporary feeling, at least in the melismatic style of the melody.

Also from LONELY RHYMES is "Today Is The Day!" a song about purposefulness and procrastination. The singer begins at a brisk march, but in the end, overcome by all of the possible tasks that he might tackle, he resolves to take a nap. This is a good uptempo comic cut, with energy. It's also the one cut from this collection that is unequivocally contemporary in its time period... though I suppose the reference to an answering machine might sound a little bit dated. Do people still have machines?

"A Young Man's Prayer" is from THE ALCHEMISTS. In the show, the song is actually a duet that the character, Nathaniel, sings with his younger self. Here I've done some cutting and re-arranging to make a nice solo excerpt out of it. This is definitely one of the most vocally demanding cuts in the collection. It has a wide range (from low A to high F) and a "skippy" melodic line that can be tricky to negotiate. But the good part is that it is a real showpiece for baritones, starting from a quiet simplicity and building to a very dramatic climax.

Musings Past