How Voice Recitals Help Discover New & Old Music

Liz Chrico 

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade. Or century. While everyone else is all about Ferris Bueller and Pretty in Pink, I’m more Sid Sorokin and Carousel. Usually the worst it does is land me a few weird looks or some insistence that I “must” see that movie. At my best I win trivia games because I know that the title song of this Broadway musical was made famous by Louis Armstrong. (The answer is “Hello Dolly” if you didn’t know). Now I’m in some unfamiliar territory. I’m searching for a song to perform at my upcoming vocal recital. The catch? I want to leave the familiar classics and move into contemporary musical theater, which I know shockingly little about I’m sad to say.

Luckily I have a bunch of friends who happily answered my FB post requesting song suggestions. I’ve been listening to some of their suggestions over the past couple weeks via Spotify and YouTube. It’s been fascinating discovering “new” shows and pieces. I also have enjoyed becoming reacquainted with actresses I’ve adored and admired in other shows at different points in their careers than when I “discovered” them. 

In no particular order here are some of the songs I’m considering for my vocal recital. If you want to add to my song dilemma feel free to post in your suggestion in the comments.

1.    “Someone Like You” Jekyll & Hyde. I associated this show with David Hasselhoff which was an immediate turnoff to me when the show premiered. A couple years ago, I saw The Ether Dome at Hartford Stage which made me a little more receptive to the story of Jekyll & Hyde. This song is gorgeous and uplifting. This song also led me to my next choice.

2.    “A New Life” Jekyll & Hyde. Another one of Lucy’s songs performed stunningly by Linda Eder. This song soars at the end to a stunning and hopeful ending. Of course I found out she’s stabbed immediately after so… yeah. 

3.    “I Can Do Better Than That” The Last 5 Years. Of course Jason Robert Brown had to be on my list. He’s one of the few contemporary composers I actually know. While I love “Still Hurting” this song resonates more with me since I broke away from that “typical life in a town on the Eastern Shore.” By the way, I’ve listened to several versions and if this show is revived again, Anika Noni Rose needs to star. Hands down, she brings it.

4.    “Another Hundred People” Company. See above statement on Anika Noni Rose. She absolutely brings it with this song too. While Sondheim might not be strictly contemporary, he’s certainly not like the classics I’m comfortable and used to singing.   

5.    “Astonishing” Little Women. My voice teacher suggested Little Women and I instantly said “I can’t belt like Sutton.” But after listening to it again I remembered the hopeful, I-can-do-anything feeling I had after watching her as Jo, myself a spunky 24ish year old. I’m still spunky and I may not be able to belt like Sutton, but I can belt like Liz.

6.    “Life of the Party” The Wild Party. I had never heard of this show but I know Idina from Rent of course. This piece is very Maureen and yet it’s not. It’s fun, sultry- it would totally work as my second piece opposite an Italian aria, right?

7.     “Safer” First Date. Thanks to YouTube suggestions I stumbled upon this song. I knew of the show, but never saw the show and now I’m sad. This song completely sums up how my dating life was throughout my 20’s and early 30s. 

I’ve got another week or so to make my choice. The plan is to listen to these songs on rotation and see which one sticks. I figure if I wake up humming it, that’s a good sign.