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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.