Sunday, March 4, 2012


I MISS WEST MICHIGAN THEATER! The Keys may have better weather, but Grand Rapids has better theater. Last night I went to see a local community theater production of "Once Upon a Mattress" and I can only say once was more than enough. I have never seen a production, high school or community, with such universally poor singing. I don't dare name the theater, since they didn't ask for my opinion, but I kept shaking my head one flat, weak solo after another. I tried to understand how everybody could be so off base and I decided it was probably the recorded accompaniment didn't provide an easy melody line for these voices, and clearly their rehearsal training hadn't provided adequate help. The few singers who managed to be on key were weak and lackluster.Of course, they weren't using microphones, which can often bolster and add a little pizzazz to weak voices. I longed for the west Michigan theaters that always use live accompaniment. even if it's just a piano or keyboard. Actors', Civic and Circle all have music directors working with the singers to help them to hear their parts and often transposing songs if needed to accommodate an actor's range. They have dedicated sound crews that blend voice and music. Even a small theater like Master Arts, which doesn't use microphones, provides live accompaniment and the vocal rehearsal necessary to deliver powerful performances.  I know that in most of my reviews of West Michigan productions I have failed to credit the wonderful work of the music directors and sound crews. A thousand pardons. But please know that when I see good performers I know it's the result of good support.

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