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Do modified vowels take you out of the moment?

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beltingbaritone
Broadway Star
joined:10/30/08
I was having this conversation today with a friend over lunch, and I thought I'd pose the same question to all you BWWers. The original discussion was Sutton Foster and her tendency to modify vowels, and in some peoples opinions, to much. We were talking about the the E flat in "Astonishing" becoming astoniSHANG, and the final C sharp I think it is in "Morning Person" becoming morNANG.

I, myself, have no problem with it. Ideally, of course, a musical number should sound like sustained speech, and evolve organically and seamlessly from the spoken dialogue. However, I also expect a certain level of musicality. So if a particularly difficult vowel such as ee and ooh are modified on higher notes, I'm not so much of a stickler as long as the sound is free and clear.

My friend completely disagrees. He says it completely takes him out of the moment and that the examples we were discussing were examples of too much vowel modification.

Thoughts?
Men don't even belt.
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bwayphreak234
Broadway Legend
joined:7/4/10
Does not bother me at all! As long as they can pull it off and it sounds good, I don't mind.
"There’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
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EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
I have a lot of respect for people like Sondheim who are so anal about this, but mostly it doesn't bother me at all, unless it makes the word incomprehensible. I think it depends on the score as well though--a pop or rock score has different expectations for me, since fake rhymes and vocal tricks like this are common to the form anyway (how many songs out there rhyme "girl" with "world"?)
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henrikegerman
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/05
Depends on whether it's the character modifying the vowel or the performer. How do I know the difference? When it distracts me, it's the performer. When it doesn't, it's the character.
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SporkGoddess
Broadway Legend
joined:7/27/05
If it's to rhyme, it annoys me. If it's to make the note and word actually possible to sing, then not really. The one exception is the musical theatre "yeeewww" (you), which drives me nuts as a classical singer. Heh.
Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!
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ClapYo'Hands
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/09
If it's Sierra Boggess and her Germanic vowels, yes.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
I like henrik's answer.

There isn't one universal accent or way of speaking and singing for all characters in musical theatre. If the "modified vowel" choices serve the material, I don't care in the least.

I also admittedly give a "pass" to the old-school larger-than-life stars and always have.

Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun
The Cowardly Lion with a Brooklyn accent in Wizard of Oz
Marlene Dietrich as a saloon gal in Destry Rides Again
Hermione Gingold as Eulalie McKechnie Shinn in The Music Man

They all made it work beautifully.
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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Wynbish
Broadway Legend
joined:4/27/12
Liz Callaway really does sound like she is singing about her mammary in Once Upon a December
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Visceral_Fella
Broadway Star
joined:1/18/12
When it changes the sound of the word it bothers me. For example, when Patina used to sing "Wait and see" as if it were "Wait and say".
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humbugfoto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/16/07
I like Henrik's answer as well.

One performance immediately comes to mind, for me - Richard Kiley on the OCR of Man of La Mancha. He mangles some words in "Impossible Dream" so badly that it yanked me right out of the song. I played it over and over trying to figure out WHAT the words were supposed to be. Worst offender - "scars" which comes out sounding like "skalls" or "skulls".

What really confused me was when I finally was able to see him perform this live (Ahmanson Theater, 1967), his pronunciation was letter perfect! Which begs the question - why didn't they do a retake on the recording of "Impossible Dream"?
Sarcasm is an allergic reaction to stupid people.
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AwesomeDanny
Broadway Legend
joined:7/30/09
As a huge diction freak, this annoys me to no end. Some vowels are harder for different people, but usually, a singer will modify a vowel on a high note because he or she is doing something vocally incorrectly on whatever vowel is written. The obvious solution to this is to fix what you're doing wrong, not to choose a different vowel.
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CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
The only time it slightly annoys me is in "Rose's Turn" when "for me" becomes "for MAY," but I understand it's hard to sing.
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Well, a twang or slur is different than altering the word completely so it sounds like they're singing or saying something else. If they go that far with it, they need to dial it down. Maybe vocal directors or musical directors aren't catching them or saying anything about it.

Yes, with crazy high belt notes, singers often have to modify them just to get them out.

This video from Felicia Ricci cracks me up, talking about singing Defying Gravity and The Wizard and I.

Defying Gravity - How to Sing it (Felicia Ricci)
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
Oh, and here's a short clip of her singing it live in the San Francisco company of Wicked. Her "modified vowels" actually work, as much as she makes fun of them.

That's how she can get the power behind them on the high notes.


Defying Gravity
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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GlindatheGood22
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
I've just noticed that in Better Than Before on the Next to Normal CD, Bobby Spencer says "git" for "get" every time. I never noticed it before and now it drives me crazy.
I leave the room smiling.
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bwayfan7000
Broadway Legend
joined:3/28/09
If we're talking specifically about women singing/belting high notes, I'd prefer the vowel to be modified and make the note sound better than for the singer to use the proper vowel and produce an awful noise. I don't know if I'd even want to hear what Sutton Foster would sound like singing the word "astonishing" correctly on an E flat...
"Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos."-Stephen Sondheim
sondhead
Broadway Star
joined:10/25/06
I hate modified vowels, most of all the aforementioned musical theatre "yew" in place of "you." If the show isn't happening in the south, stop. I don't as an audience member want to have to think about your singing, just your performance, and ridiculous modified vowels like that ruin any chance I have of being able to do that.

I think the actual answer to a lot of this, though, is secret option 3--COMPOSERS, DON'T WRITE HUGE BELTING NOTES ON DIFFICULT VOWELS. AstonishING comes to mind, as does Than BefORE (So Much Better, Legally Blonde)
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HumATune
Broadway Star
joined:4/7/06
Yeah modified vowels are fine, as long as no one goes overboard with them. I mean I really don't want to hear "dreams that cannot beeeeeee" on a hard e.
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BroomstickBoy
Broadway Legend
joined:11/21/04
I am so much bet-TUR than befAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR.


Yeah...no.
I don't WANT to live in what they call "a certain way." In the first place I'd be no good at it and besides that I don't want to be identified with any one class of people. I want to live every whichway, among all kinds---and know them---and understand them---and love them---THAT's what I want! - Philip Barry (Holiday)
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
I get angry when singers are incapable of singing the vowel sound "eee" and replace it with "ayyy."

It drives MAY CRAY-ZAY when divas end Rose's Turn with "for MAY! for MAY! for MAYYYYYY!"

Or when divos end "Being Alive" with "BAY-ING ALIVE! BAY-ING ALIVE! BAY-ING A-LAAHHH-v!"
yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
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henrikegerman
Broadway Legend
joined:4/29/05
I loved Stritch's forcing a true rhyme between raisins with liaisons.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
"What are you, Czechoslovakian?"
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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The Josh
Leading Actor
joined:10/7/10
It doesn't bother me nearly as much as modified consonants.

I still love you, Babs!
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
"You don't bring me flowuhhhz ... any-mwuuaaaaahhh."
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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Wynbish
Broadway Legend
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SporkGoddess
Broadway Legend
joined:7/27/05
For me, "ee" is easier than "ay." But I'm a soprano, not a belter. "Ee" gets right into that pingy head space.

ClapYo'Hands: Haha, I ALWAYS love to make fun of her "Love Never Dies." Lohhhhhveee neeeehvaaaahhh doys!"

Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!
Updated On: 7/26/12 at 11:25 PM

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