Truly powerful vocal performance in musical theater is more than just the sum of good vocal tone and correct notes. As experienced teacher, director, and performer Mark Ross Clark lays out in The Broadway Song, powerful performance communicates the central function of a song within the context of the surrounding narrative, or the “truth” of a song. Because unstaged performances of a song, such as auditions, are key to the success of all aspiring singers, Clark provides here the essential practical manual that will help performers choose the right pieces for their vocal abilities and identify the key truths of them.
Clark begins by walking readers conceptually through how a song’s truth is based in contexts: what show is a song from? Which character sings it? When in the show does it occur? Answering these questions will lead readers to more convincing performances that are grounded in the text, music, character, context, and larger environment (setting, time frame, and circumstances). The Broadway Song provides a comprehensive guide to the formal characteristics of key Broadway songs on a song-by-song basis, including main voice type, secondary voice qualities (such as soprano-lyric or alto-comic), range and tessitura, as well as larger contextual materials about the source — from the musical’s background, information about the character singing, and synoptic narrative information for the song — that provide the performer a way into the character. Clark moreover brings his wide-ranging and extensive experience as a director, performer, and teacher to bear in his performance notes on the individual pieces. Additionally, he includes excerpts from short interviews with artists that provide insight into the song from the perspective of those who first created (or re-created) it. The interviews, conducted with composers, lyricists, performers, and — in one case — book collaborators, are snapshots into the creative process, and act as conduits to further study of the selected songs.