Skip to main content Skip to footer site map



Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?

Lanie J
Swing
joined:11/27/19
Swing
joined:
11/27/19
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#1
Posted: 7/6/20 at 11:51am

I've heard all the tales of Idina Menzel and Barrett Wilbert Weed having dangerous or unhealthy belts. Are there any other stars, male or female, belting or legit, whose technique or style we should really not emulate when singing?

JBroadway Profile PhotoJBroadway Profile Photo
JBroadway
Broadway Legend
joined:4/6/12
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/6/12
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#2
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:01pm

Lanie J said: "I've heard all the tales of Idina Menzel and Barrett Wilbert Weed having dangerous or unhealthy belts. Are there any other stars, male or female, belting or legit, whose technique or style we should really not emulate when singing?"

 

Every actor under 40 currently working in musical theatre? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I'm exaggerating, obviously) 

Jshan05 Profile PhotoJshan05 Profile Photo
Jshan05
Broadway Star
joined:10/2/14
Broadway Star
joined:
10/2/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#3
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:02pm

I think I remember reading an interview with Alex Brightman saying that School of Rock really f***ed up his vocal chords, even so much that he had to cut back the number of shows he could do weekly AND his upper range being extremely affected from there on out. 

BrodyFosse123 Profile PhotoBrodyFosse123 Profile Photo
BrodyFosse123
Broadway Legend
joined:2/27/06
Broadway Legend
joined:
2/27/06
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#4
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:20pm

Barbra Streisand. Self-admitted she never learned not practiced vocal exercises. Only one time did she use a vocal coach as she had lost her voice. She continued his exercises maybe 2 more times then gave up. The extent of any care she gave her vocal cords was drinking tea, which she always kept on stage with her at all her live performances. That it why her voice is now raspy when she holds notes and quite limited. She’s learned to modulate her song interpretations so they continue to have her vocal stylings, but the trademark powerful Streisand voice is now shot to hell.

Patti LuPone has never stopped doing vocal exercises (even between gigs), which is why her voice is still as strong as it was in her 20s.

imeldasturn Profile Photoimeldasturn Profile Photo
imeldasturn
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/14
Broadway Star
joined:
12/8/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#5
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:23pm

Ramin Karimloo, who is also often off-key

Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/03
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#6
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:25pm

The problem may have less to do with the singer's technique than with the ways music is written nowadays. Patti LuPone once told me that composers and orchestrators in the era of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter understood the human voice and rarely did actors have to take time off for vocal rest. Nowadays, she felt, the music is written and orchestrated in such a way that singers are competing with the orchestra and injuring their vocal chords while doing so.

"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
Updated On: 7/6/20 at 12:25 PM
RippedMan Profile PhotoRippedMan Profile Photo
RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
8/14/05
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#7
Posted: 7/6/20 at 12:37pm

I think there is def. truth to that. Take something like "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - which is a show I've done - the amount of singing for the leads is insane. I didn't go on vocal rest, but to ask someone to do that 8x a week is pretty insane. Composers need to understand the limitations, etc. 

Didn't Steve Kazee ruin his voice doing "Once?" 

Broadway61004
Broadway Star
joined:4/14/11
Broadway Star
joined:
4/14/11

Every single actor in the original Broadway cast of Rent (to be fair, many of them have thankfully since learned to sing properly and preserve their voices, but almost across the board they all told stories about how singing improperly in Rent really damaged their voices permanently).

Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/03

I don't know if improper singing PERMANENTLY ruins your vocal chords. I had a traeciotomy done over a year ago and had tubes in my throat for 5 months. When the tubes were removed I thought my voice was ruined. It turned out the tubes had done some scarring to my larynx. However, I've been working with an excellent throat therapist and my voice has pretty much returned. I still have a slushy "s" but I'm determined to get rid of that.

"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
Updated On: 7/6/20 at 01:41 PM
latitudex1 Profile Photolatitudex1 Profile Photo
latitudex1
Featured Actor
joined:7/9/08
Featured Actor
joined:
7/9/08
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#10
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:11pm

RippedMan said: "I think there is def. truth to that. Take something like "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - which is a show I've done - the amount of singing for the leads is insane. I didn't go on vocal rest, but to ask someone to do that 8x a week is pretty insane. Composers need to understand the limitations, etc.

Didn't Steve Kazee ruin his voice doing "Once?"
"

His voice seems to be back from what little public singing he's done since, but Once did indeed take a lot out of him with him ultimately having to leave the show permanently.

I'm not sure technique played as much of a factor as much as him singing through injury and/or illness and the fact that he is very much a classic B'way baritone that was very much screaming (for effect) some of the top notes of songs written by and for a pop tenor.

I don't think he's ever talked about it publicly, but I would imagine that what happened is quite a bit like what Natalie Weiss describes she went through while she was doing Emojiland off-Broadway. Her technique and mastery of the belt/mix sound is great, but her voice just gave out on her for a period of time and she tried to muscle her way through technically difficult songs. Luckily, she was given the space to heal through rest. 

I've added the YouTube link of her describing it:

https://youtu.be/NRSBcSjkpKU

broadwayboy223
Broadway Legend
joined:7/2/14
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/2/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#11
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:18pm
Hi! College MT major here, and future voice teacher. I’d agree with what Patti said as quoted by Dollypop. It’s unfortunate because a lot new contemporary musical theatre is about screaming high notes, and who can sing the highest versus storytelling. There’s a LOT of bad singing on broadway.

Glad someone called out Ramin! He’s always SO sharp.

I think it would be too hard to list all the people who you shouldn’t listen to, but it’s much easier to list the good ones you should DEFINITELY listen to. I’m thinking about people like Audra, Kelli, Kate Baldwin, Lisa Howard (fabulous), Alison Luff, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti of course, etc.

I
imeldasturn Profile Photoimeldasturn Profile Photo
imeldasturn
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/14
Broadway Star
joined:
12/8/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#12
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:20pm
Yes, just the other day I was listening to Kelli singing "To Build a Home" a cappella. Her musicianship is unparalleled.
darquegk Profile Photodarquegk Profile Photo
darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
Broadway Legend
joined:
2/5/09
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#13
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:21pm
It doesn’t show much on the cast recording, but Sophia Anne Caruso’s vocal performance in “Beetlejuice” was genuinely frightening at times, moving between standard Broadway sound, pop mix and unexpected feral screams and growls. She was going to places I have never heard a teenage girl’s voice go, and sometimes it got so primal and raw that I became less impressed and more concerned.
singer234
Stand-by
joined:8/31/08
Stand-by
joined:
8/31/08
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#14
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:42pm
Jessie Mueller’s voice is astounding, but she could barely make it through the end of her Waitress run without cracking and straining. It was hard to watch.
Elfuhbuh Profile PhotoElfuhbuh Profile Photo
Elfuhbuh
Broadway Legend
joined:3/23/14
Broadway Legend
joined:
3/23/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#15
Posted: 7/6/20 at 2:44pm
Sierra Boggess’ sniffle-breathing.
"Was uns befreit, das muss stärker sein als wir es sind." -Tanz der Vampire
JennH
Broadway Star
joined:11/14/13
Broadway Star
joined:
11/14/13
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#16
Posted: 7/6/20 at 5:04pm

My favorite kind of thread, because mama has THOUGHTS FOR DAYS. 

I-scream-a Menzel is number one. As you can tell by that name, It's almost all scream/belt, all the time and not even a good one, it's ALL from her throat, no support from any other body apparatus to take the pressure off her cords, no well thought moments to back off, just all go, go, go. Her defenders drive me batty. As if her vocals aren't inconsistent enough, her acting is also questionable, if not straight up unspecific and nonchalant. 

I don't think Sierra's technique itself is bad, just from an artistic perspective it isn't great, but still like her a lot. 

Barrett, Jessie, Steve K, Alex, and a few others who might make this list I think are victims of difficult roles in impossibly long runs doing 8 shows a week rather than bad vocal technicians. This is a thing, and a THING that needs heavy considering in the future, and I'll get to that. Alex even said that the way Dewey is written doesn't allow for any rest, and certainly isn't written for the capabilities of the human voice, hence he needed a standby.  Jenna is doable but still pretty difficult even for the most steel corded singers, I can't blame Jessie for that...the end of a run with a role like that is pretty much always going to be straining. How Steve managed his Once run at all knowing what I know now, is insane...that poor dude. Ramin...is a strange anomaly to me. His being sharp is usually unnoticed because it's easier to notice flatness than sharpness. Science of sound, y'all. Not that I'm excusing him. But he strangely has cords of steel and does what he does without much issue, and how I have no idea, considering it's no secret he's never had a voice lesson in his life. 

Now onto that subject of how roles are vocal written aka vocal pedagogy... I'm HUGE on this. It continues to infuriate me that composers these days have next to nil consideration for/understanding of the human voice and what works for it. ALW can take a hike in this respect. I love the vast major of his shows as brilliant shows, but vocal pedagogist, he is NOT. There is a reason why Evita has a designated alternate. And other roles of his should too by now. I will never excuse Idina for her total lack of technique, but the material she had to work with for her most famous roles had no thought to vocal pedagogy either. Again, even the most steel voiced beltresses have problems with that same material...it's not a lack of good technique, it's a fundamental lack of knowledge of what the human voice can do. It has its limits, regardless of what  certain vocal writers might believe. That compiled on an 8 show a week schedule for a long run is asking for problems. Hell, we have past proof of this. And this goes into how and why nobody questions an 8 show a week model. The industry has been so brainwashed into thinking this is a standard to uphold, when it's ruined many a great voice. Singers call out of a show because of vocal issues and get lambasted for it, but a dancer does it and it given all courtesy. This goes into yet another discussion meant for another day, but I'll leave it at this...the voice is a muscle, just like any other part of our body and it needs TLC when injured just as a dance or sports injury would.

As mentioned above, I'm HUGE on vocal pedagogy and could talk about this subject for ddaayysss.

LovesBway! Profile PhotoLovesBway! Profile Photo
LovesBway!
Chorus Member
joined:6/17/19
Chorus Member
joined:
6/17/19
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#17
Posted: 7/6/20 at 5:14pm

"Patti LuPone has never stopped doing vocal exercises (even between gigs), which is why her voice is still as strong as it was in her 20s."

 

??????????   omg..... 

 

FlyHigh523 Profile PhotoFlyHigh523 Profile Photo
FlyHigh523
Stand-by
joined:6/7/17
Stand-by
joined:
6/7/17
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#18
Posted: 7/6/20 at 5:15pm

I read somewhere that Renee Rapp stated she doesn’t ever warm up before mean girls. I think that could definitely mess up one’s voice. But I’m not a voice teacher or anything so who knows. I also find it strange that Elphaba doesn’t have a designated alternate, but Christine in POTO does. 

Updated On: 7/6/20 at 05:15 PM
gypsy101 Profile Photogypsy101 Profile Photo
gypsy101
Broadway Legend
joined:1/22/13
Broadway Legend
joined:
1/22/13
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#19
Posted: 7/7/20 at 6:35am

singer234 said: "Jessie Mueller’s voice is astounding, but she could barely make it through the end of her Waitress run without cracking and straining. It was hard to watch."

that's the only show i didn't like her voice in. i much preferred Sara B on the songs

"Contentment, it seems, simply happens. It appears accompanied by no bravos and no tears."
qolbinau Profile Photoqolbinau Profile Photo
qolbinau
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/08
Broadway Legend
joined:
6/29/08
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#20
Posted: 7/7/20 at 6:43am

I don't think Bernadette Peters is known for having particularly strong/classical vocal technique, although I believe she describes a shift in her technique when she learned how to sing "Song & Dance" 8 shows a week.

Not sure how controversial/wrong this is, but I wonder though if prestine vocal techique can sometimes take some of the expressiveness and individuality out of voices though. Kelli's "To Build a Home" is one of my favourite performances ever, and I love me some Audra - but there is something thrilling and exciting about the sound of raw voices like Bernadette Peters or Alice Ripley tearing through songs. 

"Rose in Gypsy was like going through therapy for me. Playing Rose helped me put a lot of emotions to bed. There was so much lacking in Rose and that's why she had to prove herself through her children. [interviewer]In ways that reminded you of your mom?[/interviewer]. Let's just say the role was very interesting for me. That one was the most interesting [I've ever played]" - Bernadette Peters (2018)
BrodyFosse123 Profile PhotoBrodyFosse123 Profile Photo
BrodyFosse123
Broadway Legend
joined:2/27/06
Broadway Legend
joined:
2/27/06
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#21
Posted: 7/7/20 at 8:30am
Okay, this one isn’t about a singer but one classic case is Lucille Ball. Many attribute her later deep, husky voice to her live-long cigarette smoking when the true cause of her vocal damage was the higher octave she used in her television work, starting on 1951’s CBS comedy I LOVE LUCY. She found the higher intonations for her Lucy Ricardo character added a funnier layer so she used it for the rest of her career. Unfortunately, she never learned to do vocal warm-ups or realize this vocal straining would have long-life damage to her vocal cords.
Babe_Williams Profile PhotoBabe_Williams Profile Photo
Babe_Williams
Broadway Star
joined:3/8/17
Broadway Star
joined:
3/8/17
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#22
Posted: 7/7/20 at 9:25am

imeldasturn said: "Ramin Karimloo, who is also often off-key"

amen

Dollypop
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
5/15/03
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#23
Posted: 7/7/20 at 9:51am
Interesting comments about Lucy and how misuse of the higher range can have effects on the vocal chords. My case is the opposite

My normal range is baritone but there's no "baritone" in choral music. It's BASS. After years of singing the bass line in choirs, my voice has deepened and I think I'm far more comfortable these days in the lower register.

Go figure.
"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)
JennH
Broadway Star
joined:11/14/13
Broadway Star
joined:
11/14/13
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#24
Posted: 7/7/20 at 11:02am

Dollypop-No not strictly baritone, but I'd argue the closest it comes is the Bass I line if the bass parts splits. It's just not called baritone, as that term is reserved for the solo voice anyway. Which you're obviously aware of.

FlyHigh523- I've said the same for YEARS. I don't like comparing roles that are apples and oranges, but considering that the very song that "would" make Christine a more difficult sing isn't sung live (the title song), and a few others are also tracked, Christine hasn't needed the alternate for a while now. Elphaba is super rough on the voice and doesn't have an alternate but the past few years I've noticed the standby going on on a somewhat regular basis. I say just finally promote the standby to alternate. It's time. And good grief, someone tell Miss Rapp to warm herself up...this shouldn't even be up for debate, like I said in my other reponse above, the vocal cords are muscles that need care just like any other muscle. And that also means warming up that muscle, just like a dancer warms up their whole body. Which singers ALSO need to do....the state of our whole body can affect how our voice functions on any given day. 

qolbinau- That's been argued since the dawn of show business. And I won't say there isn't a decent level of truth to it, because there is. I can understand pristine technique possibly taking the individuality out of ones' voice but I will say it actually adds to expressiveness. A well trained voice knows how to use their voice effectively and use shading for expressiveness. Ex-Kelli. For me, it's the opposite of you...it's thrilling to hear a trained and powerful voice because I know that they know how to use their instrument to it's fullest and everything in between. Alice and Bernadette have such unique voices that we all know and love BUT I've found that uniqueness doesn't lend itself well to doing multiple things with it. Audra is another anomaly because she has utterly pristine technique but she also has a unique voice that I can pinpoint as being her immediately when I hear it. I will admit if you played Kelli without telling me it's her, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you that. There are some voices that I worry about long term vocal health, Alice among them. She is one of many that have a history of issues because they don't know how to use their voice well in the long term/don't have the technique to carry them through long runs. It's always been frustrating to me when people think technique is just about "sounding pretty" when it's more about being able to sing as a long term career. Without any foundation, the potential for vocal ruin is higher...and therefore any singing career will be cut short.  

imeldasturn Profile Photoimeldasturn Profile Photo
imeldasturn
Broadway Star
joined:12/8/14
Broadway Star
joined:
12/8/14
Actors With Unhealthy Singing Technique?#25
Posted: 7/7/20 at 11:34am
Romanticizing the lack of proper technique is dangerous. It's years of study and a good technique that keep a singer's voice in perfect shape for decades, while untrained voices tend to have a shorter career. This is particularly evident in opera singers, but it's also true for musical theatre. Ruthie Henshall has been paying since her 40s the consequences of the soprano roles she sang in the 90s and Alice Ripley's unhealthy technique is one of the reasons why ten years ago she was a Broadway star and now she does regional theatre.