Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where did all the real men go?

I waited until "Jersey Boys" had left town, so nobody would think I was complaining about the stratosphere-piercing falsetto of the guy playing Frankie Valli. I enjoyed him immensely, but I did wonder what happened to all the deep voices that once made Broadway great.

"Showboat," the first modern book musical (which celebrates its 85th anniversary in December), had leading men who were a baritone and a bass. All the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals -- among them "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel" and "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music" -- were written for lower male voices, as a rule. Emile DeBecque, dapper French hero of "South Pacific," is a true bass.

That's because most of the biggest pop singers from the late 1920s through the 1950s had lower voices: Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra. They often  put show music on their albums, and theater composers generally wrote in their ranges. ("Kiss Me, Kate" has seven significant singing roles, and a baritone could do any of them.)

But when rock music came along, forcing high-voiced lead singers to roar over orchestras, live theater followed suit. Through the 1970s, as Boston and Aerosmith and the like hired high tenors as vocalists, Broadway began to do the same. "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Chess" and other huge shows required guys with loud top notes and almost no bottom. (Traditional opera followed the same path, as orchestrations got heavier: You need a mighty-voiced tenor to ride atop a Wagnerian orchestra.)

The result: Deep voices fell out of favor. With luck, I'll see that trend reversed someday, but the high-pitched boys currently seem to have it all their own way.

2 comments:

Clay Aiken said...

I would rather have a surprise, involuntary, dry rectal exam then go to see this.

Anonymous said...

You feminist western women destroyed all the real men. You women destroyed hundreds of thousands of REAL MEN'S lives through your false rape/false DV accusations, divorce, kidnapping their children from them in custody battles, destroying them financially through demanding huge alimony/support payments.

Where did all the real men go? YOU WOMEN DESTROYED THEM.

Have fun growing old alone with your 10 cats.

Me and my fellow younger men are going to BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN and leave all of you worthless women to grow old alone living with your 10 cats.