I was talking to my brother about theater stuff recently. A friend of ours is starring as Jesus in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar this spring and we started talking about how difficult that show is vocally.
Then we started talking about Andrew Lloyd Weber and how he’s insane. (So insane) But then we started talking about how his shows are not complicated shows at all. The choral parts are basic, the story lines are simple and straightforward, the characters are mostly sketches and hardly nuanced.
But all of shows have leads are almost fricking impossible to sing and perform well. The one exception that we landed on was Starlight Express, because the character of Rusty really isn’t that hard, except, we did not, at the time take into consideration that you know, you have to do all this basic stuff, and also be on roller skates. (That show is so weird. It also meant a lot to my family, so we’re all strangely defensive of it.)
In her memoir Patti Lupone talked about learning the Evita score being the single most difficult thing she’s ever done vocally, to this day. And when you listen to that show not only is the role of Eva incredibly difficult, so is Che.
You’re probably never going to see an amateur production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with a single Narrator, because the range required for that part is so huge.
Christine Daae has to be able to sing operatic soprano and Broadway Pop belt, while the Phantom requires an ethereal dream voice as while as being able to convey insane rage. (This particular one led us down the dark path of talking about the Phantom movie and that always leads to anger in our house.)
Cats features several phenomenally difficult roles, though it’s hard to be much more difficult than Rum-Tum-Tugger and Mr. Mestopheles.
And making this phenomenon all the more fascinating is the idea that the shows themselves are not terribly complicated. Evita is the story of Eva Peron, Cats is the dramatization of The Book of Practical Cat, Joseph is a bible story, Starlight Express is about a little kid creating a convoluted soap opera with his toy trains, and maybe race relations? OK, that one’s not simple, but only because it’s insane, not because it’s deep.
Starlight Express was a really big part of my childhood. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it.